Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

This Should Get Your Intention - $100,000 Lien On Supervisor's Home as Pre-Judgment Remedy


Anyone who has read many of my comments will know I have a rather low opinion of the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress. Its standard is so vague as to be almost meaningless, and while courts most often get it right, sometimes it can itself be used in an outrageous fashion. No more so than in this recent opinion by an intermediate appellate court, Benton v. Simpson, AC 22674 (CT-App. 8/19/03). Under Connecticutt law, plaintiffs were required to show that there was probable cause that they would receive a judgment of a certain amount because of the supervisor's intentional infliction of emotional distress. After two days of testimony, the judge so concluded and awarded an attachment on the equity of the supervisor's home in the amount of $25,000 for each of the four plaintiffs who testified in the hearing. The appellate court brushed aside the defendant's argument that such an action was bad public policy.

This is not to say that the supervisor was a poster child for correct management action, however knowing how different evidence of personal misconduct can sound in the courtroom as opposed to being put in context, I think a decision of this nature, at the pre-judgment stage is truly amazing.

These are the "facts" that the court relied on in making its probable cause determination:
Benton testified that she witnessed the defendant lose his temper six to nine times, including instances such as the following: The defendant displayed anger at her yearly review; used profanity; banged on a filing cabinet; publicly admonished another plaintiff; and made the statements: ‘‘You women make me sick, you’re like a cancer,’’ and, ‘‘Geri, you have Alzheimer’s [disease].’’

Moore testified that she heard the defendant describe the plaintiffs as a ‘‘cancer.’’ Additionally, when Moore disagreed with the defendant’s assessment of the plaintiffs, he made the statement: ‘‘Donna, you are straddling the fence, you will be sore, may even have to take a hot bath tonight.’’

Cifatte testified about incidents of being belittled bythe defendant and stated that he would get ‘‘in your face’’ or ‘‘in your space.’’ At one point, Cifatte relayed to the defendant that her computer was inoperable, and the defendant responded, ‘‘Kim, I am so goddamned sick of hearing about your goddamned computer, if I could shit you out a computer I would.’’ Cifatte testified
that the defendant then hit a file cabinet and stated, ‘‘ ‘let’s take this into my office now.’ ’’‘‘You women make me sick, you disgust me, I feel sorry for anybody that has to work for you.’’

Buonincontra testified that she was present at a meeting where the defendant described the plaintiffs as a ‘‘cancer.’’ She further witnessed the defendant bang his fist to make a point and was a party to an exchange with the defendant when he followed her as she walked away from him and shouted at her."
I think there are more than a few cases where such allegations could be made. Maybe it was just the heat of summer, but this strikes me as incredibly bizarre.


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