California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

1603. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress—“Reckless Disregard” Defined

[Name of defendant] acted with reckless disregard in causing [name of plaintiff] emotional distress if:

1. [Name of defendant] knew that emotional distress would probably result from [his/her] conduct; or

2. [Name of defendant] gave little or no thought to the probable effects of [his/her] conduct.

New September 2003

Sources and Authority

  • “[I]t is not essential to liability that a trier of fact find a malicious or evil purpose. It is enough that defendant ‘devoted little or no thought’ to probable consequences of his conduct.” (KOVR-TV, Inc. v. Superior Court (1995) 31 Cal.App.4th 1023, 1031—1032 [37 Cal.Rptr.2d 431], internal citation omitted.)
  • The requirement of reckless conduct is satisfied by a showing that the defendant acted in reckless disregard of the probability that the plaintiff would suffer emotional distress. (Little v. Stuyvesant Life Insurance Co. (1977) 67 Cal.App.3d 451, 462 [136 Cal.Rptr. 653]; Cervantez v. J.C. Penney Co. (1979) 24 Cal.3d 579, 593 [156 Cal.Rptr. 198, 595 P.2d 975].)
  • “Where reckless disregard of the plaintiff’s interests is the theory of recovery, the presence of the plaintiff at the time the outrageous conduct occurs is recognized as the element establishing a higher degree of culpability which, in turn, justifies recovery of greater damages by a broader group of plaintiffs than allowed on a negligent infliction of emotional distress theory.” (Christensen v. Superior Court (1991) 54 Cal.3d 868, 905 [2 Cal.Rptr.2d 79, 820 P.2d 181].)

Secondary Sources

5 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, §§ 451, 453

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

32 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 362, Mental Suffering and Emotional Distress, § 362.10[4] (Matthew Bender)

15 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 153, Mental Suffering and Emotional Distress, § 153.21 (Matthew Bender)