Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
By Sally A. Roberts, Esq.
The essential elements of pleading an action for intentional infliction of emotional distress under
Connecticut law are:
The actor intended to inflict emotional distress, or he knew or should have known that
emotional distress was a likely result of his or her conduct;
The conduct was extreme and outrageous;
The defendant’s conduct was the cause of the plaintiff’s distress;
The emotional distress sustained by the plaintiff was severe.1
Liability for intentional infliction of emotional distress requires conduct that exceeds “all bounds
usually tolerated by decent society …” Petyan v. Ellis, 200 Conn. 243, 254 n.5 (1986).
“Liability has been found only where the conduct has been so outrageous in character, and so
extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as
atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community. Generally, the case is one in which
the recitation of facts to an average member of the community would arouse his resentment
against the actor, and lead him to exclaim, “Outrageous!” Carrol v. Allstate, 262 Conn. 433, 443
(2003). “Liability for intentional infliction of emotional distress requires conduct exceeding all
bounds usually tolerated by decent society, of a nature which is especially calculated to cause,
and does cause, mental distress of a very serious kind.”2
The tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress was recognized in Connecticut in the
employment setting in Murray v. Bridgeport Hosp., 40 Conn. Supp. 56, 62 (1984). See
Restatement 2d of Torts, § 46 & comment d.
Compensatory Damages
A plaintiff may recover compensatory damages for mental suffering caused by the defendant’s
actions, including the consequent mental effects of embarrassment, damage to reputation, mental
anguish and emotional distress.3
Punitive or Exemplary Damages
Punitive and exemplary damages are “merely alternative labels for the same remedy.”4 Punitive
damages are awarded when the evidence shows a reckless indifference to the rights of others or
an intentional and wanton violation of those rights. If awarded, they are restricted to the cost of
litigation, less taxable costs of the action being tried. Further, for an award of punitive damages it
Appleton v. Bd of Ed, of the Town of Stonington, 254 Conn. 205 (2000); DeLaurentis v. New Haven, 220 Conn.
225, 266-67 (1991); Petyan v. Ellis, 200 Conn. 243 (1986); Davis v. Davis, 112 Conn. App. 56 (2009).
Diamond v. Yale University, 66 Conn. App. 764, n. 1 (2001).
Bushnell v. Bushnell, 103 Conn. 583 (1925).
Alaimo v. Royer, 188 Conn. 36, 42 (1982).
is essential that evidence of the cost of litigating the case be offered.5 In order to recover
punitive or exemplary damages, a claim for them must be included in the pleadings.6
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress is three years
from the date of the act complained of. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-577.7
6 Conn. Prac., Trial Practice § 5:20 (citing authorities).
Freeman v. Alamo Mgt. Co., 221 Conn. 674, 683 (1992).
See DeCorso v. Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York, Inc., 78 Conn. App. 865, 873, cert denied, 266
Conn. 931 (2003). It is important, however, to take note of Rivera v. Double A Transp., Inc., 248 Conn. 21 (1999),
where the Supreme Court applied a two-year limitations period to claims of false imprisonment and negligent
infliction of emotional distress.
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