For conduct which is of an outrageous or egregious nature or so terrifying or insulting as to humiliate, embarrass, or frighten the plaintiff, Georgia recognizes the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress. There is authority to sanction a recovery in tort where the defendant has willfully and wantonly caused emotional upset to the plaintiff through the use of abusive or obscene languages.
Plaintiffs, a patient and his wife, sought review of an order from the superior court which entered summary judgment in favor of defendant physician in their action to recover damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The court found that plaintiffs' deposition testimony supported the conclusions that while the patient was in the hospital recovering from heel surgery, the physician entered his hospital room while his wife was there and began cursing at them for calling his office and raising hell with his secretary to complain that he had failed to visit the patient. Following the incident, the court noted that the patient required psychiatric treatment.
Were the statements made by a physician to his patient and patient's wife abusive enough to support a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress?
The court reversed the judgment in favor of the physician because the court found that given the fact that the alleged statements at issue were made by a physician to a post-operative patient and his wife as the patient lay in a hospital bed, it could not say as a matter of law that the statements were insufficiently abusive to support a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.