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I'm in Pro Per and one of my cause of actions is for Intentional Infliction of emotional distress. The defense has filed for

San Diego, CA |

adjudication on this cause (plus on the punitive damages) on the basis I didn't seek professional mental health help but I did seek medical help on the physical injuries. I know I don't have to seek professional mental help in such a case but I do I have statements from close friends of what I was going through emotionally. I can not locate a case to cite in my opposition, can someone point me in the right direction? (In CA.)

Attorney Answers 5

  1. It sounds like the defendant has filed a motion for summary adjudication. You need to file a timely opposition 14 calendar days from the motion hearing date.

    As the plaintiff, you must demonstrate conduct which “exceeds all bounds of decency usually tolerated in a decent society.” (Murray v. Oceanside Unified School Dist. (2000) 79 Cal.App.4th 1338, 1362–1363.) Adding an IIED claim might make it a little easier to claim punitive damages. California Civil Code section 3294 permits an award of punitive damages only when there is clear and convincing evidence that the tortfeasor has been guilty of oppression, fraud or malice. Proof of malice requires either evidence of an intent to harm or of such a conscious and deliberate disregard for the interests of others that the conduct may be called willful or wanton. When there is no evidence of an intent to harm, the higher standard of proof requires evidence of a highly culpable state of mind that justifies an exemplary award. It must be established that the defendant was aware of the probable dangerous consequences of the conduct and willfully and deliberately failed to avoid those consequences. (College Hospital Inc. v. Superior Court (1994) 8 Cal.4th 704.)

    In California, to adequately allege a cause of action for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (“IIED"), the plaintiff must allege: (1) outrageous conduct by defendant; (2) intentional or reckless causing emotional distress; (3) severe emotional distress; and (4) causation. (Huntingdon Life Sciences, Inc. v. Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty USA, Inc. (2005) 129 Cal. App. 4th 1228, 1259.)

    The extreme and outrageous character of the defendant's conduct may arise from an abuse of a position or relationship to plaintiff, which gives defendant actual or apparent authority over plaintiff. (Alcorn v. Anbro Eng., Inc. (1970) 2 Cal.3d at 493, 498.) If defendant proceeds in face of knowledge that plaintiff is peculiarly susceptible to emotional distress, defendant's conduct may become “extreme and outrageous” although it would not be so if defendant had been unaware of plaintiff's condition.

    You may find it useful to look at the cases cited in the CACI Jury Instructions, specifically CACI Nos. 1600 through 1605:

    Best of luck!

    Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice for a particular case. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, please consult with your own attorney.

  2. Motions for Summary Adjudication (MSA) / and Motions for Summary Judgment (MSJ), are complex procedurally. You should be aware that if you lose this motion certain aspects of your claim will be thrown out of court and forever barred. I would recommend consulting with an attorney IMMEDIATELY to evaluate the merits of your claim, correct pleading errors and address the MSA/MSJ. It is unwise to handle this in pro per unless you have experience and/or training. Best of luck.

    I am licensed in California, therefore, my answers are based on general prinicpals of law or California law, which may not be applicable in your jurisdiction. Answers posted to Avvo are for general information only. Do not conclusively rely on any information posted online when deciding what to do about your case. Every case depends is fact dependent, and responses are limited to and is based on the information you posted. No attorney-client relationship shall be created through the use reading of this response on Avvo. You should never delay seeking legal advice, disregard legal advice, or commence or discontinue any legal action because of information in this response.

  3. Whether your emotional distress was "severe" is a question of fact. All you need to do to defeat a motion for summary adjudication of issues is to provide evidence that evidences severe emotional distress sufficient to create a triable issue of fact. That you did not seek professional mental help may be a factor in considering whether your emotional distress was severe, but it is in no way a deciding factor.

    Study the law on what constitutes "severe" emotional distress, and if you have experienced similar issues, provide declarations from you and others who can competently testify to that fact. Your declaration alone can create a triable issue of fact unless you have already responded in deposition or other written discovery responses in a manner inconsistent with the declaration.

    Good luck to you.

    This answer should not be construed to create any attorney-client relationship. Such a relationship can be formed only through the mutual execution of an attorney-client agreement. The answer given is based on the extremely limited facts provided and the proper course of action might change significantly with the introduction of other facts. All who read this answer should not rely on the answer to govern their conduct. Please seek the advice of competent counsel after disclosing all facts to that attorney. This answer is intended for California residents only. The answering party is only licensed to practice in the State of California.

  4. I am guessing the defendant filed a motion for summary adjudication on your cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress. If that is the case, you will need to file and serve an opposition within 14 days from the hearing date. See CCP 437(c) for motion for summary adjudication.
    You have the burden of proof as the plaintiff in the case and you must demonstrate the defendant engaged in conduct which exceeded all bounds of decency normally tolerated by society.” Adding an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim will help you with your claim for punitive damages. In order to claim puntive damages, you must show by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant has committed oppression, fraud or malice, see Civil Code Section 3294. Proof of malice requires either evidence of an intent to harm or a conscious and deliberate disregard for the interests of others that the conduct is shown as willful or wanton. (shooting a gun at a passing train with no regard for the safety of the passengers would be an extreme example.) If there is no evidence of an intent to harm, the higher standard would require a guilty state of mind that supports an award of punitive damages. You have to be able to prove that the defendant was aware of the probable dangerous outcome of their conduct and knowingly and deliberately failed to avoid the outcome of those consequences.

    For intentional infliction of emotional distress you must prove the defendant engaged in intentional or reckless outrageous conduct which caused you emotional distress.

    Check out the California Jury Instructions and the annotated cases for more details.
    You might also seriously consider retaning an attorney, as it seems you are involved in a somewhat complex legal case?

    Legal disclaimer:This message does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Any statements are made for general informational purposes and do not constitute legal advice. No attorney-client privilege is created by this communication. Attorney is licensed in California only.

  5. When all is said and done, the fact is that there is ample legal authority that can serve either outcome on this issue. Most likely, the court that hears the Motion will make a ruling that reflects the court's experience and standards for IIED. If the court feels that a jury could find that the defendant's conduct was sufficiently outrageous, the court will deny the motion so long as you have cited to some such evidence. If the court believes that the facts on which you base that claim are not not sufficiently extreme, the court will rule that as a matter of law the evidence is insufficient to meet the standard for that claim and will grant the motion as to that issue.

    This process is sometimes cynically referred to as "legal realism," but built into the legal process are a number of check-points where the court makes a determination as to whether a particular set of facts -- if proven -- can support the claim. Not every claim is allowed to get to the jury.

    I think you already know that IIED is judged by a very high bar. If you go to court for a few motion days and watch your judge in action, very likely you will see the adjudication of several IIED claims on Motion for Summary Adjudication. That kind of observation can give you a very strong sense of your court's specific measure for the extreme and outrageous element of your IIED cause of action.

    My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as legal advice. I give legal advice only in the course of an attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by individual consultation and execution of a written agreement for legal services.

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