The tort of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, commonly abbreviated as IIED, is a relatively new one, as courts only recently have begun to recognize that compensation is necessary for victims in these situations. Until recently, torts such as assault were not applicable unless physical harm was actually about to happen, but one party could harass another party by verbally threatening future harm, causing significant emotional harm in the process, and be relatively free from liability.

Courts have been historically reluctant to accept emotional harm as a criterion for damages, as it was feared that doing so would cause a slippery slope of frivolous lawsuits. However, the courts have created a set of four general criteria for an IIED claim:

  • The defendant must have acted either intentionally or recklessly. As indicated, an action need not specifically be intended to cause emotional harm; simply acting recklessly is sufficient.
  • The action must be extreme and outrageous. The definition of this has, historically, been widely interpreted, and open to subjective cultural interpretation. What is outrageous in one culture may be acceptable in another.
  • The action must be the cause of the emotional distress.
  • You must suffer severe emotional distress as a result of the action. This can also be widely interpreted, with many criteria being used, including the length of distress, the intensity, and any physical symptoms. Typically, expert testimony (ie. a psychiatrist) is necessary to prove this, although occasionally friends and family members’ testimony may be sufficient.

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This article is not intended to serve as, or as a replacement for, legal advice. If someone has inflicted emotional distress upon you, contact the New York City personal injury lawyers of Orlow, Orlow & Orlow, P.C.