Law School Case Brief
Caldor, Inc. v. Bowden - 330 Md. 632, 625 A.2d 959 (1993)
There are four elements which must coalesce to impose liability for intentional infliction of emotional distress: (1) the conduct must be intentional or reckless; (2) the conduct must be extreme and outrageous; (3) there must be a causal connection between the wrongful conduct and the emotional distress; and (4) the emotional distress must be severe.
Plaintiff Samuel Bowden brought suit against his employer defendant Caldor, Inc. and three Caldor employees alleging false imprisonment, wrongful discharge, malicious prosecution, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The complaint arose from incidents in which Bowden was detained and interrogated by Caldo personnel concerning alleged thefts from the store and Bowden's subsequent termination from employment and prosecution in juvenile proceedings. At trial in Maryland state court, Bowden succeeded on the merits of his case, and the jury awarded compensatory damages separately for each of the five counts. In addition, the jury found that punitive damages were warranted. After a separate hearing, the jury granted a total of $ 357,500 in punitive damages, apparently based on all five tort counts, but it did not allocate the portion of the punitive damages award attributable to each count. At a post-trial hearing, the trial court granted defendants' a motion for judgment not withstanding the verdict ("JNOV") setting aside the judgment on two of the counts but leaving the entire punitive damages award intact. Both parties appealed, with Bowden challenging the trial court's granting of JNOV on the wrongful discharge and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims, while Caldor appealed the denial of JNOV on the three remaining counts and the denial of its motion for remittitur. Caldor also sought a new trial on the punitive damages award, contending that the trial court erred in denying its motion for a new trial after granting JNOV on two of the five underlying tort claims.
Did the trial court err in awarding JNOV on Bowden's wrongful discharge and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims?
The Court of Appeals of Maryland affirmed the trial court's order that granted JNOV on Bowden's wrongful discharge and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims, holding that Bowden failed to establish the elements of intentional infliction of emotional distress and failed to show that Caldor was driven by an improper motive when it discharged him. The court further ruled that the trial court properly denied JNOV on Bowden's remaining counts as the statements made by defendants to the police were not entitled to absolute immunity, Bowden was not estopped from pursuing his malicious prosecution claim, and defendants may not have had probable cause to detain Bowden. Finally, the court ruled that the trial court erroneously denied defendants' motion for new trial on punitive damages, and the court remanded the matter for recalculation of the punitive damages award.
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