Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Monday, May 12, 2003

Texas Supreme Court Trying to Reign In Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

The tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress is often a struggle because of the way people act and because of the variable nature of the standard, "extreme and outrageous conduct". In an effort to avoid having that merely be based on the opinion of the last court to hear the matter, the court has chosen to give in great detail the behavior of a party to a construction contract during the dying days of the owner of the other party. Tiller v. McClure (Tx May 8, 2003). Noting that the most outrageous act was the owner's demand that the construction project not be shut down for the day of the funeral, the Court still found that this did not rise to the high level of misconduct necessary to support an intentional infliction of emotional distress verdict. Instead the Court seemed to put renewed emphasis on physical threats as a keystone to such findings. Although it is better to have the standard tightened, it will remain problematic until the Court makes it crystal clear that it is only to be allowed in the most severe cases, only where there is clear physical threat or danger, and then is a remedy of last resort.

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