Torts I, Pages 58–60

Slocum v. Food Fair Stores of Florida

Supreme Court of Florida, 1958

Facts:

Plaintiff asked defendant's employee for help in finding the price of an item. The employee told her, "[Y]ou'll have to find out the best way you can . . . you stink to me." This aggravated plaintiff's pre-existing heart condition and caused her to have a heart attack.

Procedural History:

Trial court dismissed for failure to state a claim.

Issue:

[D]oes such an assertion of a deliberate disturbance of emotional equanimity state an independent cause of action in tort?

Notes:

  • "Equanimity" means: "mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation"

  • Basically just whether defendant's employee's language was enough for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Rules:

  • Restatement § 46 makes a blanket provision for liability on the part of "one, who, without a privilege to do so, intentionally causes severe emotional distress to another." Intention exists "when the act is done for the purpose of causing the distress or with knowledge . . . that severe emotional distress is substantially certain to be produced by [such] conduct."

  • Page 59, Paragraph 2Language must be likely to cause "severe emotional distress," not mere "emotional distress."

  • Conduct must be outrageous.

    Explanation:

    The test is: Is it so severe that a person of ordinary sensibilities suffer intentional infliction of emotional distress?

Reasoning:

While some extend intentional infliction of emotional distress to cover those with a correlative duty of courtesy, there's no reason to extend it to business invitees generally.

Holding:

No, defendant's employee's language was not substantially certain to cause severe emotional distress. Affirmed.

Note:

Florida didn't recognize intentional infliction of emotional distress.

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