Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

Normally, it’s not possible to sue someone simply because they made you feel bad. Most lawsuits are about causing physical injuries, or damaging or stealing property, or impinging on another’s legal rights. However, on some occasions, it is possible to sue someone for intentional infliction of emotional distress, if their conduct matches certain specific criteria.

Intentional infliction of emotional distress is defined as “the plaintiff acting abominably or outrageously with the intention of causing the defendant to suffer severe emotional distress.” Broken down into pieces, this means that for someone to have committed intentional infliction of emotional distress, they must have:

  • Performed an act towards the plaintiff;
  • The act must be “abominable or outrageous”;
  • The outrageous act must have been done with the intent to cause emotional distress;
  • The plaintiff must have suffered that level of emotional distress.

The first part of the criteria to prove intentional infliction of emotional distress is straightforward, at least on the surface: for someone to intentionally inflict emotional distress, they must have done something to cause that distress. Someone cannot cause intentional distress by doing nothing, at least in most circumstances. The second criteria, similarly, is easy to grasp: the act in question must be “abominable or outrageous,” meaning that it must be something that no person would do under normal circumstances. The act itself doesn’t need to be illegal, but it must be offensive, upsetting, or shocking in some incredibly unusual way.

The third criterion is possibly the most crucial: the act must have been intended to cause distress. No amount of distress counts as intentional infliction of emotional distress unless it was intentionally inflicted. And then finally, the plaintiff must have suffered emotional distress. However, it’s not enough to claim an act was distressing; there must have been a physiological or psychological manifestation of that distress, such as insomnia, panic attacks, or a subsequent diagnosis of a psychological disorder related to the distress, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

If you believe you have been the victim of intentional infliction of emotional distress, you’ll need skilled legal representation to assist you. The lawyers at Levine and Slavit, PLLC are experienced in representing New York City and Long Island residents in personal injury matters. To schedule a free consultation, contact our New York City personal injury lawyers at (212) 687-2777 or for our Long Island lawyers call (516) 294-8282.

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