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Schneider v. TRW, Inc. - 938 F.2d 986 (9th Cir. 1991)


In claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, summary judgment is proper if a claim cannot reasonably be regarded as so extreme and outrageous as to permit recovery. Conduct, to be outrageous, must be so extreme as to exceed all bounds of that usually tolerated in a civilized society. Severe emotional distress means emotional distress of such substantial quantity or enduring quality that no reasonable man in a civilized society should be expected to endure it. Ordinarily mere insulting language, without more, does not constitute outrageous conduct. 


Defendant TRW, Inc. laid off plaintiff Maria Schneider and 24 other employees as part of a reduction in force. Schneider filed a lawsuit in federal district court against TRW and certain of its employees and agents in their official and individual capacities, alleging state law claims for breach of contract, breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Schneider also alleged claims for discrimination on the basis of national origin, age discrimination and civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 (collectively, "federal claims"). TRW filed a motion for summary judgment on the state law claims, which was granted. The district court dismissed the federal claims. Schneider then appealed the district court's order granting summary judgment on her state law claims.


Was Schneider wrongfully discharged, thus rendering the grant of summary judgment in favor of TRW erroneous?




Reviewing de novo the summary judgment and in the light most favorable to Schneider as the nonmoving party, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. The court found that Schneider did not overcome the presumption that employment was at will and failed to show any genuine issues of material fact to support her claim that she was wrongfully discharged. The criteria for the lay-off were job classification, performance and seniority and Schneider's nine-month evaluation showed performance below expectations. There was no evidence that the conduct TRW's employees rose to the outrageous level required for a prima facie case of intentional infliction of emotional distress.

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