California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

1602. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress—“Outrageous Conduct” Defined

“Outrageous conduct” is conduct so extreme that it goes beyond all possible bounds of decency. Conduct is outrageous if a reasonable person would regard the conduct as intolerable in a civilized community. Outrageous conduct does not include trivialities such as indignities, annoyances, hurt feelings, or bad manners that a reasonable person is expected to endure.

In deciding whether [name of defendant]’s conduct was outrageous, you may consider, among other factors, the following:

(a) Whether [name of defendant] abused a position of authority or a relationship that gave [him/her] real or apparent power to affect [name of plaintiff]’s interests;

(b) Whether [name of defendant] knew that [name of plaintiff] was particularly vulnerable to emotional distress; and

(c) Whether [name of defendant] knew that [his/her] conduct would likely result in harm due to mental distress.

New September 2003

Directions for Use

Read the appropriate factors that apply to the facts of the case. Factors that do not apply may be deleted from this instruction.

Sources and Authority

  • “Conduct to be outrageous must be so extreme as to exceed all bounds of that usually tolerated in a civilized community.” (Davidson v. City of Westminster (1982) 32 Cal.3d 197, 209 [185 Cal.Rptr. 252, 649 P.2d 894].)
  • “[L]iability ‘does not extend to mere insults, indignities, threats, annoyances, petty oppressions, or other trivialities… There is no occasion for the law to intervene . . . where someone’s feelings are hurt.’ ” (Agarwal v. Johnson (1979) 25 Cal.3d 932, 946 [160 Cal.Rptr. 141, 603 P.2d 58], quoting Rest.2d Torts, § 46, com. d, overruled on other grounds in White v. Ultramar, Inc. (1999) 21 Cal.4th 563, 579—580 [88 Cal.Rptr.2d 19, 981 P.2d 944].)
  • “ ‘Behavior may be considered outrageous if a defendant (1) abuses a relation or position that gives him power to damage the plaintiff’s interests; (2) knows the plaintiff is susceptible to injuries through mental distress; or (3) acts intentionally or unreasonably with the recognition that the acts are likely to result in illness through mental distress…’ ” (Molko v. Holy Spirit Ass’n (1988) 46 Cal.3d 1092, 1122 [252 Cal.Rptr. 122, 762 P.2d 46], internal citation omitted.)
  • Relationships that have been recognized as significantly contributing to the conclusion that particular conduct was outrageous include: employer- employee (Alcorn v. Anbro Engineering, Inc. (1970) 2 Cal.3d 493, 498, fn.2 [86 Cal.Rptr. 88, 468 P.2d 216]), insurer-insured (Fletcher v. Western National Life Insurance Co. (1970) 10 Cal.App.3d 376, 403—404 [89 Cal.Rptr. 78]), landlord-tenant (Aweeka v. Bonds (1971) 20 Cal.App.3d 278, 281—282 [97 Cal.Rptr. 650]), hospital-patient (Bundren v. Superior Court (1983) 145 Cal.App.3d 784, 791—792 [193 Cal.Rptr. 671]), attorney-client (McDaniel v. Gile (1991) 230 Cal.App.3d 363, 373 [281 Cal.Rptr. 242]), collecting creditors (Bundren, supra, at p. 791, fn. 8), and religious institutions (Molko, supra, 46 Cal.3d at pp. 1122—1123).

Secondary Sources

5 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, §§ 451—454

4 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 44, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, §§ 44.01, 44.03 (Matthew Bender)

32 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 362, Mental Suffering and Emotional Distress, § 362.10[3][c] (Matthew Bender)

15 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 153, Mental Suffering and Emotional Distress, § 153.20 (Matthew Bender)