Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress: The Physical Injury Requirement

Ultimate_Post_wCat__V402326037_Maggie”, “Mr. Kitty” and “Carmel Cream.”

Are they the stage names of the um, “dancers”, at your local gentleman’s club, peut-etre?

Not sure. But they are the names of the plaintiff’s cats who figure prominently in Myers v. Condominiums of Edelweiss, Inc., 2013 WL 4597973 (N.D.Ill. August 29, 2013). 

Myers examines what happens when a condominium association’s no-pet policy collides with a Federal discrimination statute.

The plaintiff lived in a condominium unit managed by defendant (which has a recorded no-pet policy) for over 15 years.  For that entire time, plaintiff has had multiple cats in her unit: a clear violation of the no-pet rule. 

After several years of litigation in Illinois eviction court (ultimately resolved in plaintiff’s favor), plaintiff sued in Federal court alleging that the defendants (condominium association and individual board members) violated the Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq.)(FHA) and joined state law claims for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress against the defendants.

Held: Defendants’ summary judgment motion on negligent infliction claim granted.

Reasoning:

cats) was reasonable and necessary under the FHA standard. *6.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

The court denied summary judgment for the defendant on this count.  An intentional infliction plaintiff must allege (1) defendant’s conduct was “extreme and outrageous”; (2) defendant intended to inflict severe emotional distress or knew there was high probability that his conduct would do so; (3) defendant’s conduct actually caused severe emotional distress. *7. 

To determine whether conduct is extreme and outrageous, the court considers  (a) the power and control the defendant has over plaintiff; (b) whether defendant believed his objective was legitimate; and (c) defendant’s awareness of plaintiff’s susceptibility to mental distress.  *7. 

The court found that a jury could find the Association’s conduct extreme and outrageous.  The Association, knowing of plaintiff’s chronic depression (supported by a doctor’s opinion), still sued to evict her and didn’t follow its by-laws by not first calling a meeting to discuss the no-pets infraction. *3, 8.  The Association’s decision to try and force plaintiff from her home instead of “less disruptive” measures raised a question of fact on the extreme and outrageous element.  *8.

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (the ‘Impact Rule’)

Defendant’s motion on plaintiff’s negligent infliction claim was  granted.

A Negligent infliction plaintiff must satisfy the impact rule: a plaintiff can’t recover for emotional distress suffered due to a defendant’s negligence unless the emotional distress is accompanied “by a contemporaneous physical injury or impact to the plaintiff.”  *8. 

Emotional pressure, loss of business, and reputational damage do not constitute sufficient physical injury or impact.  *9.  Since plaintiff didn’t offer any physical harm or injury (beyond mental anguish) evidence, she failed to raise a genuine fact question on whether she suffered physical impact sufficient to survive summary judgment.

Take-aways:

– Whether given conduct is extreme and outrageous for an intentional infliction claim is a highly fact-specific calculus with no bright-line rules;

– For a negligent infliction claim, physical injury is required.  Mental distress, economic and reputational harm don’t suffice;