Emotional Distress Claims
False Imprisonment, IIED, and NIED.
The plaintiff must initially prove that the defendant intentionally detained the plaintiff against the plaintiff’s will. Redding v. Shelton’s Harley Davidson, Inc., 139 N.C. App. 816, 534 S.E.2d 656 (2000).
False Imprisonment is the illegal restraint of the person of any one against his will.... Force is essential only in the sense of imposing restraint.... There is no legal wrong unless the detention was involuntary. False Imprisonment may be committed by words alone, or by acts alone, or by both; it is not necessary that the individual be actually confined or assaulted, or even that he should be touched.... Any exercise of force, or express or implied threat of force, by which [78 N.C.App. 148] in fact the other person is deprived of his liberty [or] compelled to remain where he does not wish to remain ... is an imprisonment….The essential thing is the restraint of the person. This may be caused by threats, as well as by actual force, and the threats may be by conduct or by words. If the words or conduct are such as to induce a reasonable apprehension of force, and the means of coercion are at hand, a person may be as effectually restrained and deprived of liberty as by prison bars. (citations omitted).
Shopkeeper’s Privilege: G.S. § 14-72.1(c) protects merchants from civil actions for detention provided that the merchant complies with the law. If probable cause was lacking or the detention was not reasonable, G.S. § 14-72.1(c) would not apply and defendants would be liable for false imprisonment. Cf. Kmart, 708 So.2d at 110 (when there is no evidence merchant "used any more force than was necessary to ensure that [plaintiffs] were detained," merchant entitled to directed verdict on assault and battery claim); State v. Ataei-Kachuei, 68 N.C.App. 209, 213-14, 314 S.E.2d 751, 754 (indicating that firing three shots at victim, one of which hit and killed victim, could be reasonable manner of detaining victim), disc. review denied, 311 N.C. 763, 321 S.E.2d 146 (1984).
The Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress:
In Stanback v. Stanback, 297 N.C. 181, 254 S.E.2d 611 (1979), our Supreme Court held that liability for the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress arises "when a defendant's conduct exceeds all bounds of decency tolerated by society and the conduct causes mental distress of a very serious kind." West v. King's Dept. Store, Inc., 321 N.C. 698, 704, 365 S.E.2d 621, 625 (1988). To assert a claim for intentional infliction of emotional or mental distress, plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to show: "(1) extreme and outrageous conduct, (2) which is intended to cause and does cause (3) severe emotional distress to another." Dickens v. Puryear, 302 N.C. 437, 452, 276 S.E.2d 325, 335 (1981). "The tort may also exist where defendant's actions indicate a reckless indifference to the likelihood that they will cause severe emotional distress." Id.
West v. King's, 86 N.C.App. 485, 358 S.E.2d 386 (Phillips, J., dissenting) Furthermore, Mr. West warned the manager that his wife was receiving out-patient treatment at a local hospital and could not withstand a confrontation such as this. Notwithstanding this warning and Mr. West's offer of proof of purchase, the store manager confronted Mrs. West as soon as he saw her and made similar accusations against her. Though neither physical injury nor foreseeability of injury is required for intentional infliction of emotional distress, Dickens v. Puryear, 302 N.C. 437, 276 S.E.2d 325, both of these factors go to the outrageousness of the store manager's conduct.
The Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress: A plaintiff can recover for a defendant’s negligent infliction of emotional distress without necessarily proving the existence of physical injury, as long as 1) the defendant negligently engaged in conduct; 2) it was reasonably foreseeable that such conduct would cause the plaintiff severe emotional distress; and 3) the conduct did in fact cause the plaintiff severe emotional distress. Johnson v. Ruark Obstetrics & Gynecology Assoc., P.A., 327 N.C. 283, 304 (1990).
Punitive Damages: In order to deter defendant and those similarly situated as defendant from engaging in like conduct again, and to provide further compensation to the plaintiff for withstanding particularly egregious behavior, § 1D-35 allows the plaintiff to recover punitive damages when appropriate at three times the amount of actual damages or $250,000, whichever is greater. The justification of punitive damages relies on the following non-exhaustive list of statutory factors:
1. The reprehensibility of defendant’s motives and conduct.
2. The likelihood, at the time, of serious harm.
3. The degree of defendant’s awareness of the probable consequences of its conduct.
4. The duration of the defendant’s conduct.
5. The actual damages suffered by the plaintiff.
6. Any concealment by the defendant of the facts and consequences of its conduct.
7. The existence and frequency of any similar past conduct by the defendants.
8. Whether the defendant profited from the conduct.
9. The defendant’s ability to pay punitive damages, as evidenced by its revenues or net worth.
Right to Privacy: Similarly, claims based on intrusions to your reasonable expectations of privacy can give rise to actionable claims. Although North Carolina does not recognize claims in this category as extensively as other states, there are still avenues of relief for when someone intrudes your privacy in such a substantial manner that a reasonable person in your shoes would not be able to tolerate it either.