Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress Law in Arizona – by statutes, common law or both?
We have written other articles about the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”). But what is the law in Arizona in regard to IIED? Arizona looks to both the restatement 2d of Torts, and to the common law of Arizona. This blog helps you understand this concept better. If you need a tort lawyer, fill out the contact form below to speak with one of our injury lawyers. IIED cases can often arise in the context of a financial elder abuse of a person, man or woman by a real estate broker, life insurance company, annuity dealer, stock broker, financial planner, lawyer, or other professional that preys on and abuses a senior.
Coffin v. Safeway, Inc., 323 F. Supp. 2d 997 (D. Ariz. 2004)
This is one main case that discusses the AZ IIED law. This Court discussed:
b. Elements of the tort of IIED under Arizona law
Arizona courts have set forth the elements for the tort of IIED relying on the language of the Restatement (Second) of Torts. Ford v. Revlon, Inc., 153 Ariz. 38, 44, 734 P.2d 580, 586 (Ariz.1987) (citing Savage v. Boies, 77 Ariz. 355, 272 P.2d 349 (1954)).
“The elements of a cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress are:
 the conduct of the defendant must be extreme and outrageous;
 the defendant must either intend to cause emotional distress or recklessly disregard the near certainty that such distress will result from his conduct; and
 severe emotional distress must indeed occur as a result of defendant’s conduct.” Johnson v. McDonald, 197 Ariz. 155, 160, 3 P.3d 1075, 1080 (1995) (citing Ford, 153 Ariz. at 43, 734 P.2d at 585).
Bonus materials: Here is a list of various types of serious emotional damages that may qualify under IIED tort law.
Arizona follows the definition of the “extreme and outrageous conduct” element provided in the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 46 (comment d):
“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 the facts to an average member of the community would arouse his resentment against the actor, and lead him to exclaim, “Outrageous!” See Lucchesi v. Stimmell, 149 Ariz. 76, 78, 716 P.2d 1013, 1016 (1986); Cluff v. Farmers Ins. Exch., 10 Ariz.App. 560, 562, 460 P.2d 666, 668 (1969).
Because the terms “outrageous conduct” and “severe emotional distress” evade precise legal definition, a case-by-case analysis is necessary. Lucchesi v. Stimmell, 149 Ariz. at 79, 716 P.2d at 1016. One factor used by courts to analyze these terms is the “position occupied by the defendant.” Id. (citing Restatement (Second) of Torts § 46 comment e). Comment e provides that “the extreme and outrageous character of conduct may arise from an abuse by the actor of a position, or a relation with the other, which gives him actual or apparent authority over the other, or power to affect his interests.”
This case points out what many Arizona tort lawyers have known for a long time – this is an EASY tort to plead in a complaint, and a TOUGH won to actually win because the conduct has to be so atrocious as to not be civilized. This is not always an easy standard to meet. In financial elder abuse cases, in both Arizona and California, these standards might be a little easier to meet since doing outrageous things to persons over 65 years of age, and their personal or real property, may be seen as predatory in real estate, insurance, stocks, annuities, and other cases.
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Cluff v. Farmers Ins. Exch., 10 Ariz. App. 560, 562-63, 460 P.2d 666, 668-69 (1969)
In this case, the Arizona court held:
“Arizona recognizes the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress. Savage v. Boies, 77 Ariz. 355, 272 P.2d 349 (1954). However, it is generally held that the claim cannot arise out of conduct which merely hurts one’s feelings. Wallace v. Shoreham Hotel Corp., 49 A.2d 81 (D.C.Mun.App.1946). As is pointed out in Restatement (Second) Torts Section 46, Comment (d) (1965). 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!“
The Court added:
“Even if the defendant’s acts are done ‘wilfully, intentionally and maliciously’ with ‘intent to inflict mental suffering and emotional distress,’ it becomes the duty of the court in the first instance, as society’s conscience, to determine whether the acts complained of can be considered as extreme and outrageous conduct in order to state a claim for relief. Restatement (Second) Torts Sec. 46, Comment (h) (1965). In our opinion, the act of an insurance adjuster in simply contacting a person to whom his company may be liable in order to obtain a settlement of that claim, even after retention of counsel, does not In and of itself, amount to extreme or outrageous conduct. Although several insurance cases have held an insurance company liable because of conduct of their adjuster in attempting to settle claims, in all such cases not only was contact made by the adjuster, but other aggravated acts followed. For example, in Interstate Life & Accident Co. v. Brewer, 56 Ga.App. 599, 193 S.E. 458 (1937) the insurance adjuster contacted the plaintiff while she was sick in bed recovering from a heart attack. The adjuster upbraided her as to the amount of other health policies she had; advised her that his company was cutting her payments to $2.50 a week, and when plaintiff objected to this, the adjuster threw a handful of coins in her face. When the plaintiff started screaming for her niece to contact her doctor, the adjuster yelled at her in a loud and angry voice ‘you don’t need a doctor, you ought to die!’ Such aggravated conduct is not present here.”
Contact an Arizona IIED law firm
We can help you determine whether or not you have a valid IIED claim in Arizona, or in California. We have offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and in Maricopa County (phoenix). Call us at (877) 276-5084 or fill out the contact form below. We offer affordable and flexible fees including potential flat rate legal fees.
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