CACI No. 1602. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress - “Outrageous Conduct” Defined

Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (2024 edition)

Download PDF
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/nonbinary pronoun] 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/nonbinary
pronoun] conduct would likely result in harm due to mental
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].)
“[W]hether conduct is outrageous is ‘usually a question of fact’ . . . . [However]
many cases have dismissed intentional infliction of emotional distress cases on
demurrer, concluding that the facts alleged do not amount to outrageous conduct
as a matter of law.” (Bock v. Hansen (2014) 225 Cal.App.4th 215, 235 [170
Cal.Rptr.3d 293], internal citations omitted.)
“[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 (11th ed. 2017) Torts, §§ 525-528
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)

© Judicial Council of California.