- Defendant acted intentionally or recklessly; and
- Defendant’s conduct was extreme and outrageous; and
- Defendant’s act is the cause of the distress; and
- Plaintiff suffers severe emotional distress as a result of defendant’s conduct.
Intentional or reckless act
It is not necessary that an act be intentionally offensive. A reckless disregard for the likelihood of causing emotional distress is sufficient. For example, if a defendantrefused to inform a plaintiff of the whereabouts of the plaintiff’s child for several years, though that defendant knew where the child was the entire time, the defendant could be held liable for IIED even though the defendant had no intent to cause distress to the plaintiff.
Extreme and outrageous conduct
The conduct must be heinous and beyond the standards of civilized decency or utterly intolerable in a civilized society. Whether the conduct is illegal does not determine whether it meets this standard. IIED is also known as the tort of “outrage”, due to a classic formulation of the standard: the conduct must be such that it would cause a reasonable person to feel extremely offended, shocked, and/or outraged.
Some general factors that will persuade that the conduct was extreme and outrageous (1) there was a pattern of conduct, not just an isolated incident; (2) the plaintiff was vulnerable and the defendant knew it; (3) the defendant was in a position of power; (4) racial epithets were used; and (5) the defendant owed the plaintiff a fiduciary duty.
The actions of the defendant must have actually caused the plaintiff’s emotional distress beyond the bounds of decency. IIED can be done through speech or action; if emotional stress, must manifest physically.