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Liability for intentional infliction of emotional distress is imposed only where the conduct has been so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community. The cause of action does not protect against mere insults, indignities, and threats.
Cassandra MacArthur, a research laboratory technician, filed this employment discrimination action against University of Texas Health Center at Tyler, and against Dr. Richard Painter and Dr. Michael Wilson, who worked with her at the Health Center. The district court submitted to the jury special interrogatories on MacArthur's claims of sex discrimination, First Amendment retaliation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The jury refused to award her damages on her claims of First Amendment retaliation or sex discrimination, but found in her favor and against Dr. Painter on the state law claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress. On appeal, she raised several evidentiary rulings related to the Title VII retaliation claim, which she pleaded, but which she failed to present to the jury for determination. Dr. Painter cross-appealed and challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to support the jury's award of damages to MacArthur for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Was the award of damages to MacArthur for intentional infliction of emotional distress proper?
Dismissing the appeal, the court held that MacArthur had abandoned her Title VII claims at trial and could not raise them on appeal. Although MacArthur raised other issues in her notice of appeal, she did not brief them in accord with Fed. R. App. P. 28(a)(5). Careful review of the evidence revealed that although MacArthur’s colleagues may have been unkind, none had behaved outrageously. The rebukes she received were warranted by her performance. The court reversed the jury verdict on the emotional distress claim.