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Where the proof does not show that a defendant has violated applicable health care and legal standards, the conduct cannot reasonably be characterized as so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.
Plaintiff Jerry Bain filed an action against defendant hospital, claiming that the hospital's policy of placing HIV-infected patients in the same room with patients not infected with the virus without warning or prior consent constituted outrageous conduct and that he had suffered emotional distress because he feared he would become infected with the AIDS virus. The hospital claimed its policy was consistent with acceptable medical practice and that the patient had failed to allege actual exposure to the AIDS virus. Defendant’s motion for summary judgment was denied, and the appellate court affirmed the denial. Defendant appealed.
Did the plaintiff state a claim for outrageous conduct and negligent infliction of emotional distress, thereby justifying the denial of defendant’s motion for summary judgment?
The court held the hospital's policy was in accordance with health standards and as a matter of law did not constitute outrageous conduct. The plaintiff's claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress failed as a matter of law because he offered no evidence he was actually exposed to HIV. Where the proof did not show the applicable health care and legal standards were violated, the conduct could not be considered outrageous. To recover emotional damages based on the fear of contracting AIDS, proof of actual exposure was necessary to establish a connection between the act or omission and the emotional distress of the plaintiff who feared contracting AIDS. There was no duty to protect against the fear of contracting AIDS.