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Law School Case Brief

Boyle v. Wenk - 378 Mass. 592, 392 N.E.2d 1053 (1979)


Where a person engages in intentional conduct which is designed to, and actually does, result in severe emotional and physical damage, the possibility of trivial or fictitious claims does not justify denial of recovery to the victim. There is an issue for the jury if reasonable people could differ on whether the conduct is "extreme and outrageous."


Plaintiff filed an action for intentional infliction of emotional distress against Defendant private investigator who was hired to investigate her health and capacity to work. Defendant was told that the Plaintiff had just been released from the hospital and that she did not want to receive calls.  In spite of Plaintiff’s request, Defendant continued to harass her by calling at a late hour and by appearing at her home. The jury found for the Plaintiff. After review was sought in the Appeals Court, the court, on its own initiative, ordered direct appellate review.


Does the complaint of Plaintiff satisfy the “extreme and outrageous” test in an action for infliction of emotional distress?




On direct review, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts concluded that the  evidence that the defendant repeatedly harassed the plaintiff after she told him not to call and informed him that she had recently been discharged from a hospital and that, as a result of the defendant's conduct, the plaintiff suffered emotional and physical damage was sufficient to warrant the denial of the defendant's motions for a directed verdict and for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. The jury's finding that a private investigator's actions met the "extreme and outrageous" standard required to find liability was not disturbed on appellate review.

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