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Can I be sued for emotional/mental distress?

Warrington, PA |

I was talking to this girl who came to me for advice. She was having problems with her boyfriend at the time, so when she was upset about it she could come to me. I gave her some general advice like "things will get better", "stay positive", and that there are better guys out there. However, no matter what I said she never took my advice and was always upset. She seemed really emotionally unstable and was happy one second then completely upset the next second and freak out. Since she wasn't taking my advice, I realized I couldn't help her and tried to stop talking to her. However, she kept trying to contact me. Recently, she checked into a mental institution for help. If she says that it was me who caused her to go there, can I be sued for anything?

Attorney Answers 1


The short answer is, "No." Just a friendly word of advice: stay away from people like this if you don't want to get dragged into their problems. If all you did was try to offer her advice and you weren't trying to take advantage of her sexually, or otherwise, then there really isn't anyway that anyone can blame you for her problems. However, unstable people like this will often use people who try to help them and they will suck them in and draw them into their drama. Before you know it, you really could have some serious problems. I knew a guy like you who was trying to help a bipolar girl he knew, and she slept with him, because she said he was a nice guy, and then she accused him of raping her. It took him years to get away from the accusations and get back to his life again, and he could have avoided it all if he had just run in the other direction and not gotten involved with unstable people.

Good Luck!

Attorney answers to questions are for general purposes only and do not establish an attorney-client relationship. This answer is meant for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice within the bounds of a professional relationship. It is always best to seek counsel with a competent attorney experienced in your area of issue and fully informed about the facts of your case.

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1 comment

Jacob Ryan Lauser

Jacob Ryan Lauser


John, You have to understand that there are no “charges” in a civil case. In other words, even if you lose there is no jail time involved, just money damages. Also, in civil court, anyone can sue you for anything, and the court is generally obligated accept the case until it gets thrown out for failing to meet the applicable standards. Of course, there are penalties for bringing a stupid case to court, but that’s a different standard. Most cases will be thrown out before the first hearing if there isn’t what we lawyers call a “cause of action”. In the case of “mental distress”, the cause of action is a specific tort (a civil cause of action) and there are MANY exact requirements that must be met before someone can win. For instance, “mental distress” cases are usually under circumstances where a someone accidentally kills another person and their husband or wife is standing right next to them when it happens. Then they are “mentally distressed” by seeing what happened so close and it could have happened to them too. In your case, I think you are worried that you would get sued for contributing to that woman’s emotional and mental instability (perhaps she has threatened you), and the fact is that there really isn’t a “cause of action” (nothing you can be sued for) for just giving advice or saying something about her boyfriend that she didn’t like. Unless you said or did something that you aren’t telling me about, it sounds like what you did simply isn’t something anyone could win against you for. It’s not a matter of “trying” to ignore her. You should just plain ignore her. Change your phone number and report any harassing behavior to the police to get her to leave you alone. Maybe move to a different part of town, if she is really bothering you. In cases like this, involving mentally unstable persons, your best bet is to avoid them and get as far away from them as possible. If you didn’t doing anything to her except give her advice and try to help, then you have nothing to worry about. Now, if you did do something to her, like you intentionally broke her up with her boyfriend, or you “comforted” her and had sex with her or something like that, and now you’re dealing with a Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction sort of situation, then you should get a PFA (protection from abuse) restraining order and stay away from her. If you are really concerned about serious legal problems, I suggest that you speak with an experienced attorney in your area for more help. Good Luck!

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