Womack v. Eldridge

215 Va. 338, 210 S.E.2d 145 (1974)



Emotional distress may be recoverable where the offense conduct was intentional, reckless, or outrageous, and was intended to inflict emotional distress, or where there was a causal connection between the conduct and the emotional distress. 


A private investigator made a misrepresentation to the plaintiff in order to take his picture. The picture was used by an attorney in connection with his defense of a child molestation case against another person. The plaintiff, however, was not associated with the child molestation case. Plaintiff alleged that he suffered emotional distress as a result of his picture being taken and filed an action against the private investigator for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The trial court granted judgment notwithstanding the verdict to the private investigator because plaintiff suffered no physical injury.The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of Virginia.


Can a plaintiff recover in an action for intentional infliction of emotional distress in the absence of physical injury?




The court held that Virginia recognized a cause of action for intentional or reckless infliction of emotional distress and that plaintiff could recover in the absence of physical injury. The court found that there was evidence that the private investigator's conduct was extreme and outrageous, that a reasonable person would have recognized the likelihood of the serious mental distress that would be caused in involving an innocent person in child molesting cases, and that plaintiff's emotional distress was severe. 

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