Dickens v. Puryear

276 S.E.2d 325

 

RULE:

Threats for the future are actionable, if at all, not as assaults but as intentional inflictions of mental distress.

FACTS:

Plaintiff victim filed suit against defendant perpetrators after the male perpetrator beat up the victim upon learning that the victim had shared sex, alcohol, and marijuana with the perpetrators' daughter. The Wake Superior Court (North Carolina) granted summary judgment to the perpetrators on ground that the suit was time-barred, and the judgment was affirmed by the Court of Appeals. The victim sought review by the state's highest court. The victim urged that the perpetrators' failure to file an answer was fatal to filing for summary judgment and that the three-year statute of limitations applied to the case because the victim's suit lay in a claim for intentional infliction of mental distress.

ISSUE:

Is a threat for the future apparently intended to and which allegedly did inflict serious mental distress actionable as an intentional infliction of mental distress?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

The court held that the perpetrators properly raised the limitations defense, but that on its merits the victim's claim was not altogether barred by the one-year statute because the factual showing indicated that the victim could prove a claim for intentional infliction of mental distress, which was governed by the three-year statute, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1-52(5). Summary judgment was proper as against the female perpetrator as there was no showing that the victim could prove a claim against her. A party whose answer was not yet due could raise an affirmative defense before filing an answer. The victim's factual showing was such that as a matter of law it could not be concluded that the victim could not prove intentional infliction of mental distress at trial. A threat of future harm that was apparently intended to and which did inflict mental district was actionable as an intentional infliction of mental distress. The lower court's ruling that affirmed summary judgment in favor of the male perpetrator was reversed, and the claim against the male perpetrator was remanded for further proceedings. The decision affirming summary judgment in favor of the female perpetrator was again affirmed.

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