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To recover under the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress, the plaintiff must prove that 1) the defendant acted intentionally or recklessly, 2) the conduct was extreme and outrageous, 3) the actions of the defendant caused the plaintiff emotional distress, and 4) the resulting emotional distress was severe. Outrageous conduct is that which goes beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community. It is for the court to determine, in the first instance, whether the defendant's conduct may reasonably be regarded as so extreme and outrageous as to permit recovery.
Respondent Diana Casas, the personnel manager for the “Meals Ready to Eat” division of Right Away Foods Corporation ("RAFCO"), a wholly owned subsidiary of Wornick Company, was suddenly and unexpectedly discharged from work. Respondent’s firing was done by her supervisor, in a one-on-one meeting that lasted for about four minutes. Despite the promise of the RAFCO’s president to further discuss respondent’s employment, respondent was removed from the payroll and was not allowed to return to the company premises. Subsequently, respondent sued RAFCO and its executive officers (collectively, “petitioners”), alleging among other things, intentional infliction of emotional distress. The trial court granted petitioners' motion for summary judgment on all claims. The court of appeals reversed as to the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim. Petitioners challenged the reversal.
Did a genuine issue of material fact exist regarding each element of respondent’s claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress?
On review, the court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals on the grounds that respondent 's summary judgment evidence failed to establish one of the essential elements of the claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress, outrageous conduct. The court found that the fact of discharge as a matter of law could not constitute outrageous behavior where petitioners acted within their rights as employers. Respondent was an employee at will, and as such was subject to being terminated at will and without cause. Without a showing of outrageous conduct respondent's claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress failed.