Law School Case Brief
Dominguez v. Equitable Life Assurance Soc'y - 438 So. 2d 58 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1983)
A cause of action for intentional infliction of severe mental or emotional distress, more appropriately called outrageous conduct causing severe emotional distress, essentially involves the deliberate or reckless infliction of mental suffering on another, even if unconnected to any other actionable wrong. The elements of this cause of action are: first, the wrongdoer's conduct was intentional or reckless, that is, he intended his behavior when he knew or should have known that emotional distress would likely result; second, the conduct was outrageous, that is, as to go beyond all bounds of decency, and to be regarded as odious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community; third, the conduct caused the emotional distress; and fourth, the emotional distress was severe.
Plaintiff, who became totally disabled due to an automobile accident, received disability income under a policy of insurance plaintiff had purchased before the accident. After six years, defendant insurer stopped making payments. Plaintiff filed suit for damages, alleging that defendants intentionally caused severe emotional distress by cutting off the disability payments without justification. The trial court dismissed with prejudice the count of plaintiff's complaint that sought damages for severe emotional distress because it was allegedly caused by outrageous conduct unconnected to any other identifiable tort.
Did the court err in dismissing the case?
The court reversed the order of the trial court that had dismissed plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a cause of action. The court remanded for further proceedings and held that a cause of action for intentional infliction of severe mental or emotional distress can exist notwithstanding the absence of another tort.
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