Law School Case Brief
McGrath v. Fahey - 126 Ill. 2d 78, 127 Ill. Dec. 724, 533 N.E.2d 806 (1988)
The tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress requires, first, that the conduct involved must be truly extreme and outrageous. Second, the actor must either intend that his conduct inflict severe emotional distress, or know that there is at least a high probability that his conduct will cause severe emotional distress. Third, the conduct must in fact cause severe emotional distress. The law intervenes only where the distress inflicted is so severe that no reasonable man could be expected to endure it. The intensity and duration of the distress are factors to be considered in determining its severity. The tort does not extend to mere insults, indignities, threats, annoyances, petty oppressions, or other trivialities.
Plaintiff depositor entered into a real estate contract involving defendant bank. The contract was of questionable fairness and was the subject of separate litigation. The bank refused the depositor's requests to withdraw his funds from the bank, despite the fact that the funds had no connection with the real estate contract, and defendant officer, knowing that plaintiff depositor had serious heart problems, made threats that the bank would ruin him unless he transferred other property to the bank. The depositor suffered a serious heart attack. The depositor filed an action against the bank and the officer alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress. The trial court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a cause of action. On appeal, the appellate court reversed, stating that a jury could legitimately find defendants' conduct so outrageous as to support the claim. The bank and the officer appealed.
Did the depositor have a claim against the bank and its loan officer for intentional infliction of emotional distress?
The court held that the intentional infliction of emotional distress required outrageous conduct, intent that the conduct inflict distress or knowledge that there was a high probability, and distress in fact. The court found that a jury could reasonably deem the conduct outrageous, that the bank and the officer intended to inflict distress, and that the depositor did in fact suffer severe emotional distress. Thus, the decision of the appellate court in favor of the depositor was affirmed.
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