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Elements.  Intentional infliction of emotional distress is a "gap-filler" tort applicable only when "a defendant intentionally inflicts severe emotional distress in a manner so unusual that the victim has no other recognized theory of redress." Hoffmann--La Roche Inc. v. Zeltwanger, 144 S.W.3d 438, 447 (Tex. 2004).  The elements of the tort are: 1) the defendant acted intentionally or recklessly; 2) the defendant's conduct was extreme and outrageous; 3) the conduct caused the plaintiff emotional distress; and 4) the emotional distress was severe. Id.  "Extreme and outrageous" conduct means conduct "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." Hoffmann--La Roche, 144 S.W.3d at 445; GTE SW., Inc. v. Bruce, 998 S.W.2d 605, 611 (Tex. 1999). Conduct that does not rise to the level of conduct actionable includes insensitive or even rude behavior, mere insults, indignities, threats, annoyances, petty oppressions, or other trivialities. GTE, 998 S.W.2d at 612.  It is for the court to determine, as an initial matter, whether a defendant's conduct was extreme and outrageous. Id. However, when reasonable minds may differ, it is for the jury to determine whether the conduct was sufficiently extreme and outrageous to result in liability. Id.  There is no liability for intentional infliction of emotional distress when an actor simply does no more than insist on or exercise their legal rights. Espinosa v. Aaron's Rents, Inc., 484 S.W.3d 533, 545 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2016, no pet.).  For example, the reporting of activity to the police does not constitute extreme and outrageous behavior. Id. at 546; see also Lang v. City of Nacogdoches, 942 S.W.2d 752, 760 (Tex. App.—Tyler 1997, writ denied).

Statute of Limitations.  There is a two-year statute of limitations for claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem.Code § 16.003(a); Zurita v. Lombana, 322 S.W.3d 463, 473 (Tex.App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2010, pet. denied)

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

© 2020 Mark Courtois

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