GTE Southwest v. Bruce

998 S.W.2d 605 (1999)



To be extreme and outrageous for purposes of showing intentional infliction of emotional distress, conduct must be 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, insensitive or even rude behavior does not constitute extreme and outrageous conduct. Similarly, mere insults, indignities, threats, annoyances, petty oppressions, or other trivialities do not rise to the level of extreme and outrageous conduct. 


Respondent employees sued petitioner employer for intentional infliction of emotional distress based on the constant humiliating and abusive behavior of their supervisor.  The employees complained about the supervisor's daily use of profanity, short temper, and his abusive and vulgar dictatorial manner. The employees complained that, among other offensive acts,  Shields repeatedly yelled, screamed, cursed, and even "charged" at them. The trial court and court of appeals rendered judgment for respondents. Petitioner appealed. The court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals.


Can petitioner's employees recover damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress based on the workplace conduct of their supervisor?




The court held that the Texas Workers' Compensation Act did not bar respondents' claim because respondents' injuries were not compensable under the Act. The court held that respondents established the elements of a cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The court evaluated the conduct of the supervisor as a whole and determined that there was evidence to support the conclusion that the conduct was extreme and outrageous. The court held that the supervisor's acts were committed in the course of his employment, therefore, petitioner was liable for his conduct. The court found the evidence supported a finding that respondents suffered severe emotional distress when they experienced a variety of emotional problems, experienced anxiety and fear, sought medical treatment, and were prescribed medication to alleviate the problems.

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