Law School Case Brief
Laughinghouse v. Risser - 754 F. Supp. 836 (D. Kan. 1990)
Four elements must be demonstrated to establish a claim of outrage: (1) the conduct of the defendant must be intentional or in reckless disregard of plaintiff; (2) the conduct must be extreme and outrageous; (3) there must be a causal connection between the defendant's conduct and plaintiff's mental distress; and (4) plaintiff's mental distress must be extreme and severe. It is for the court to determine if two threshold requirements have been met before an outrage claim may be allowed to proceed. The court must be convinced (1) that reasonable fact finders might differ as to whether the defendant's conduct may reasonably be regarded as so extreme and outrageous as to permit recovery; and (2) that the emotional distress suffered by the plaintiff is of such extreme degree the law must intervene because the distress inflicted is so severe that no reasonable person should be expected to endure it. The Kansas courts are reluctant to extend the outrage cause of action to discrimination claims, including claims of sexual harassment, arising in the employment setting
Defendant supervisor and plaintiff female employee shared a meal after working late, and the supervisor asked the employee to return with him to his motel room. The employee refused, after which the supervisor's behavior toward her became abusive. Plaintiff employee filed this employment discrimination action, alleging claims of sexual discrimination and sexual harassment under Title VII and the Kansas Act Against Discrimination (KAAD), and additional pendent state claims of outrage, battery, and negligence. Defendants, former employer, former supervisor, and supervisor's manager, sought summary judgment.
Was plaintiff’s claim under the Kansas Act Against Discrimination appropriate for summary judgment?
The court granted summary judgment against the employee on the KAAD count only and held the remaining counts for trial. The employee's Title VII claim was timely because she demonstrated that the continuing violation theory was to be applied. The employee's claim of sexual harassment in the form of both quid pro quo and hostile work environment was sufficient to withstand the motion for summary judgment. There were enough fact issues regarding the employer's and manager's knowledge of the supervisor's behavior and the claim of discriminatory denial of long-term disability benefits to go to trial. The employee failed to exhaust her administrative remedies on the KAAD claim, and, thus, summary judgment was granted against her. The court declined to grant summary judgment against the employee on her outrage claim because the nature of the alleged abuse, coupled with its constancy, sufficiently demonstrated the claim.
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