Law School Case Brief
Wilson v. Monarch Paper Co. - 939 F.2d 1138 (5th Cir. 1991)
To prevail on a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, state law requires that four elements be established that include defendant acting intentionally or recklessly; conduct is extreme and outrageous; the actions of defendant caused plaintiff emotional distress; and the emotional distress suffered by plaintiff is severe. Extreme and outrageous conduct is an amorphous phrase that escapes precise definition. Liability for outrageous conduct is found only where the conduct 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. Generally, the case is one in which a recitation of the facts to an average member of the community would lead him to exclaim outrageous. Liability does not extend to mere insults, indignities, threats, annoyances, petty oppressions, or other trivialities. There is no occasion for the law to intervene in every case where someone's feelings are hurt.
At the age of 48, an employee was hired by employers. He routinely received merit raises and performance bonuses. After a new president was brought into the company, the president refused to speak or to interface with the employee. His job was dismantled by the employer's removal of his responsibilities and assigning them to other employees. The employee then took a supervisory position and was subjected to harassment and verbal abuse. Later, the employees and an executive was reduced to sweeping floors and cleaning the cafeteria. The employee filed an action against the employers for age discrimination and retaliation under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and for intentional infliction of emotional distress under state law. The trial court awarded damages finding the employers liable and denied their motions for a directed verdict, new trial, judgment notwithstanding the verdict or a remittitur. The employers challenged the decision.
Did the trial court err in awarding damages to the employee?
The trial court's judgment awarding damages to the employee was affirmed in an action for age discrimination and intentional infliction of emotional distress because the case was taken out of the realm of an ordinary employment dispute due to the degrading and humiliating way that he was stripped of his duties by the employer and demoted from an executive manager to an entry level supervisor with demeaning duties. It held that the evidence supported the conclusion that the employer's conduct was outrageous and extreme and the employee was involuntarily terminated and rendered jobless by a condition directly caused by the employer's discriminatory conduct.
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