In the case of Kontos v. Laurel House, Inc., a social worker filed an action alleging claims of intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress against defendants, a nonprofit organization and its executive director. The organization filed a motion to strike these counts on the ground that the social worker failed to allege sufficient facts to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. It is important to note that establishing a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress requires conduct that exceeds all bounds usually tolerated by decent society. 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.
Unlike a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, in order to state a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress, a plaintiff need not allege extreme and outrageous conduct on the part of the defendant. Rather, a claim based on the negligent infliction of emotional distress requires only that the actor’s conduct be unreasonable and create an unreasonable risk of foreseeable emotional harm.
As to intentional infliction of emotional distress, the social worker argued that by falsely accusing him of sexual harassment as a pretext for terminating his employment, the organization’s conduct in fact was extreme and outrageous. The court concluded that the social worker’s allegation that the director falsely accused him of sexual harassment did not meet the threshold for extreme and outrageous conduct.
As to negligent infliction of emotional distress, the social worker alleged that in summarily terminating him and falsely accusing him of sexually harassing a staff member, the organization knew or should have known that such conduct created an unreasonable risk of causing him emotional distress. He further alleged that he suffered depression, loss of self-esteem, extreme embarrassment and consternation as a result of the circumstances surrounding his termination. The court concluded that the social worker pleaded sufficient facts to suggest that the manner in which organization and director carried out the social worker’s termination was sufficiently unreasonable to support a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress.
The court denied the motion to strike as to intentional infliction of emotional distress but denied the motion as to negligent infliction of emotional distress: “In light of [Connecticut law], [the employee] has pleaded sufficient facts to suggest that the manner in which [the organization] and [director] carried out [the employee’s] termination was sufficiently unreasonable to support a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress.”
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Source: Kontos v. Laurel House, Inc., 2007 Conn. Super. LEXIS 225 (Conn. Super. Ct. Jan. 17, 2007)
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