In a tort action for intentional infliction of emotional distress, whether the conduct is so extreme and outrageous as to justify recovery is committed to the court in the first instance. Further, whether severe emotional distress can be found from the evidence is committed to the court.
The family filed a lawsuit after the insurer refused to pay a claim for damage to their home following a fire officially cited as arson. The family alleged the claims specialists reported the father committed arson even though he was acquitted of the charge and that the claims process inflicted emotional distress. The family argued on appeal that the trial court erred when it redacted certain testimony from their expert witness' deposition and when it refused to admit into evidence the family's application for insurance, which was relevant to their expectations and their allegation of bad faith handling of the claim. Also, they claimed that the trial court erred when it allowed jury instructions that asserted the insurer's defense of arson.
Did the trial court err in its handling of the case?
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial court, concluding that the expert witness' testimony was properly redacted where he was not a qualified expert. Moreover, the Court held that the application for the insurance policy was properly excluded because it was not part of the contract.