Law School Case Brief
George v. Jordan Marsh Co. - 359 Mass. 244, 268 N.E.2d 915 (1971)
In Massachusetts, one who, without a privilege to do so, by extreme and outrageous conduct intentionally causes severe emotional distress to another, with bodily harm resulting from such distress, is subject to liability for such emotional distress and bodily harm, even though he has committed no recognized common law tort.
Plaintiff sought to recover damages from defendant creditor and its agents for emotional distress resulting in two heart attacks allegedly caused by defendants' attempts to collect from plaintiff a debt incurred by her emancipated son. The lower court sustained defendants' demurrer, and plaintiff appealed.
Did the debtor's mother state a cause of action against her son's creditors?
Noting that the case was one of first impression in Massachusetts, the court rejected application of the Spade rule and its progeny prohibiting recovery for emotional distress caused by negligent or grossly negligent conduct when there was no injury to the person from without. Instead, the court held that plaintiff successfully alleged a new cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress, holding that a person could be liable when he, without privilege to do so, by extreme and outrageous conduct intentionally caused severe emotional distress to another, with bodily harm resulting from such distress, even though the person committed no recognized common law tort. The court reversed holding that the plaintiff was entitled to an opportunity to prove her allegations.
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