Intentional infliction of emotional distress is a "gap-filler" tort, created to permit recovery in those rare instances in which a defendant intentionally inflicts severe emotional distress in a manner so unusual that the victim has no other recognized theory of redress. It was never intended as an easier and broader way to allege claims already addressed by our civil and criminal laws, nor was it intended to replace or duplicate existing statutory or common law remedies. Thus, if the gravamen of a plaintiff's complaint is another tort, a claim will not lie regardless of whether the plaintiff succeeds on, or even makes the alternate claim.
Appellant vice-principal filed a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress against appellee students who created a website that contained her personal information and explicit and graphic sexual references. She also filed a claim against appellee parents for negligence and gross negligence. The trial court granted the students and parents summary judgment and the court affirmed on appeal.
Did the trial court err in granting summary judgment in favor of appellees?
Because the vice-principal failed to allege facts independent of her defamation claim in support of her claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, the trial court did not err in granting summary judgment on this claim. The essence of the vice-principal's complaint, that the students used her identity in both creating and publishing a web page, was defamation. That the trial court dismissed the defamation claim as a matter of law did not give rise to one of those rare instances in which a defendant intentionally inflicted severe emotional distress in a manner so unusual that the victim had no other recognized theory of redress. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to grant the vice-principal's motion for a continuance under Tex. R. Civ. P. 166a(g) because she failed to show materiality for the discovery sought.