Law School Case Brief
Randall's Food Mkts. v. Johnson - 891 S.W.2d 640 (Tex. 1995)
To recover for intentional infliction of emotional distress, a plaintiff must prove that (1) the defendant act intentionally or recklessly; (2) the defendant's conduct is extreme and outrageous; (3) the defendant's actions cause the plaintiff emotional distress; and (4) the emotional distress suffered by the plaintiff is severe. The definition of extreme and outrageous conduct is conduct that is 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.
Respondent Mary Lynn Johnson, a manager of a store of petitioner Randall's Food Market, purchased several items from the store, but did not pay for a large Christmas wreath that she was holding. The check-out clerk did not charge Johnson for the $25 wreath because, after ringing up her other items, he asked her if there was anything else, and she replied that there was nothing else. check-out clerk reported Johnson's failure to pay him for the wreath to management. When Johnson returned to work two days later, she was escorted to an office in the back of the store and questioned her about the wreath. The questioning caused Johnson to cry, she was suspended for 30 days without pay, and transferred to another, nearby store. Johnson never reported to work at the other store. She subsequently sued the store Randall's, and the individuals involved, alleging various claims, including intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, and defamation. The trial court granted petitioners' motion for summary judgment, but the court of appeals reversed. Petitioner Johnson sought further appellate review..
Does the grocery store's conduct constitute intentional infliction of emotional distress?
The Supreme Court of Texas held that, as a matter of law, petitioners' conduct was not extreme and outrageous. The court found that petitioners merely asked the employee to explain a report of her wrongdoing, and that the employee was not imprisoned where the evidence showed she freely left the area. Further, the court found that petitioners did not slander the employee regarding her alleged theft because all statements made during the investigation were true and qualifiedly privileged. The employee was not defamed by a subordinate's complaints because petitioners established an absence of malice with regard to the qualifiedly privileged statements made during the investigation of the complaints.
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