The Guide is an invaluable online tool for litigation and transactional attorneys. The Guide provides for more than 70 common law causes of action:

- Each action’s elements;
- The most recent state and federal cases that cite the actions’ elements;
- The applicable statute of limitations for each action; and
- Defenses to each cause of action.
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Emotional Distress, Intentional Infliction

1 Elements and Case Citations

“A cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress exists when there is

(1) extreme and outrageous conduct by the defendant with the intention of causing, or reckless disregard of the probability of causing, emotional distress;
(2) the plaintiff's suffering severe or extreme emotional distress; and
(3) actual and proximate causation of the emotional distress by the defendant’s outrageous conduct.”

Hughes v. Pair, 46 Cal. 4th 1035, 1050 (2009) (internal quotation marks removed).

“A defendant's conduct is ‘outrageous’ when it is so ‘extreme as to exceed all bounds of that usually tolerated in a civilized community.’”  Hughes v. Pair, 46 Cal. 4th 1035, 1050 (2009) (internal quotation marks removed).

“With respect to the requirement that a plaintiff show severe emotional distress, this court has set a high bar. ‘Severe emotional distress means “emotional distress of such substantial quality or enduring quality that no reasonable [person] in civilized society should be expected to endure it.”’”  Hughes v. Pair, 46 Cal. 4th 1035, 1051 (2009) (internal quotation marks removed).

The conduct must be “directed at the plaintiff, or occur in the presence of a plaintiff of whom the defendant is aware.”  Christensen v. Superior Court, 54 Cal. 3d 868, 903 (1991).


Supreme Court of California: Hughes v. Pair, 46 Cal. 4th 1035, 1050 (2009).

California 1st Dist.: Comstock v. Aber, 212 Cal. App. 4th 931, 954 (2012).

California 2d Dist.: McCoy v. Pac. Maritime Association, 216 Cal. App. 4th 283, 294-95 (2013).

California 3d Dist.: Ess v. Eskaton Props., 97 Cal. App. 4th 120, 129-30 (2002).

California 4thDist.: McClintock v. West, 219 Cal. App. 4th 540, 556 (2013); Plotnik v. Meihaus, 208 Cal. App. 4th 1590, 1609 (2013).

California 5thDist.: Michaelian v. State Comp. Ins. Fund, 50 Cal. App. 4th 1093, 1113-14 (1996).

California 6thDist.: Moncada v. West Coast Quartz Corp., 221 Cal. App. 4th 768, 780 (2013).


United States Court of Appeal for the 9th Circuit: Doe v. Gangland Prods., 730 F.3d 946, 960 (9th Cir. 2013).

Central District: Cook v. Torres, No. CV 13-2030 JLS (SS), 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 158568, at *29 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 10, 2013).

Eastern District: Campos-Riedel v. JP Morgan Chase, No. 2:12-cv-2819 TLN DAD PS, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 161937, at *20-21 (E.D. Cal. Nov. 13, 2013).

Northern District: McCree v. Cal. Dep’t of Conservation, No. 12-cv-04127-JST, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 158487, at *15 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 5, 2013).

Southern District:  Rulenz v. Ford Motor Co., No. 10cv1791-GPC-MDD, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 71256, at *14-15 (S.D. Cal. May 20, 2013);Evans v. City of San Diego, 913 F. Supp. 2d 986, 1000 (2012).

2 Defenses to Claim for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

(1)   Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 431.30(b)(2) (pleading affirmative defenses), and other standard defenses.  See Chapter 1 for all defenses.

(2)   Statute of Limitations: Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 335.1 (two years).

(3)   Nature of Defendant’s Actions:   “Liability for intentional infliction of emotional distress ‘does not extend to mere insults, indignities, threats, annoyances, petty oppressions, or other trivialities.’” Hughes v. Pair, 46 Cal. 4th 1035, 1051 (2009) (internal quotation marks removed).

(4)   Sexual Harassment:  “If properly pled, a claim of sexual harassment can establish “the outrageous behavior element of a cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress.” Hughes v. Pair, 46 Cal. 4th 1035, 1051 (2009) (internal quotation marks removed).

(5)   Emotional Distress was Trivial or Transient: “[T]o make out a claim, the plaintiff must prove that emotional distress was severe and not trivial or transient.” Wong v. Jing, 189 Cal. App. 4th 1354, 1376 (2010).

(6)   Privilege: The defendant’s conduct must be unprivileged. See Cote v. Henderson, 218 Cal. App. 3d 796, 806 (1990); Cal. Civ. Code § 47.

(7)   Claim related to discrimination claim: “[T]he unavailability of noneconomic damages for a termination decision substantially motivated by discrimination does not preclude the possibility of liability in tort for intentional infliction of emotional distress.”  Harris v. City of Santa Monica, 56 Cal. 4th 203, 234 (2013).

(8)   Debt Collection/Protection of Economic Interests:  “While it is recognized that the creditor possesses a qualified privilege to protect its economic interest, the privilege may be lost should the creditor use outrageous and unreasonable means in seeking payment. . . . The applicable test is whether or not the creditor goes beyond ‘all reasonable bounds of decency’ in attempting to collect the debt.”  See Bundren v. Superior Court,145 Cal. App. 3d 784, 789 (1983).

(9)   Public Figure: “[P]ublic figures and public officials may not recover for the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress by reason of publications such as the one here at issue without showing in addition that the publication contains a false statement of fact which was made with ‘actual malice,’ i.e., with knowledge that the statement was false or with reckless disregard as to whether or not it was true..  See Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, 485 U.S. 46, 56 (1988). Workers’ Compensation Preemption:  “So long as the basic conditions of compensation are otherwise satisfied (Lab. Code, § 3600), and the employer’s conduct neither contravenes fundamental public policy . . . nor exceeds the risks inherent in the employment relationship . . ., an employee’s emotional distress injuries are subsumed under the exclusive remedy provisions of workers’ compensation.”  Livitsanos v. Superior Court, 2 Cal. 4th 744, 754 (1992).