Vol. 18, Iss. 7
© 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc., A Wiley Company
All rights reserved
Can university be liable for intentional infliction
of emotional distress?
By Aileen Gelpi, Esq.
Ann Meehan became a curator at the Loyola University
of Chicago Art Museum in 2005.
In October 2014, she told human resources and
administrators that she was bipolar, and had recently
been sexually assaulted.
In early November, Meehan asked Loyola for unspeci-
fied accommodations that would allow her to perform
her duties and also receive treatment for her bipolar
disorder. The university instead provided her with pam-
phlets about its employee assistance program and the
Family and Medical Leave Act.
A few days later, an unnamed Loyola administrator
recommended for unspecified reasons that Meehan
immediately go on medical leave. Observing that the
recommendation distressed her, the administrator called
campus police to escort her out of the building. Officers
Robert Paprocki and Alicia Roman responded, mistakenly
believing that Meehan wasn’t allowed on campus because
she had been fired. Loyola didn’t correct that misimpres-
sion or inform them of Meehan’s bipolar disorder.
Not long after the two officers escorted Meehan
out of the building, Officer Roman saw her entering a
university-owned building at the edge of campus and
arrested Meehan for criminal trespass.
In March 2015, Meehan’s lawyer sent a letter to
Loyola seeking to resolve all issues. Instead of engag-
ing in discussions, the university sent a letter to Meehan
indicating she was fired.
Meehan filed a lawsuit asserting Loyola was guilty of
intentional infliction of emotional distress. The university
responded with a motion to dismiss, arguing Meehan
failed to plead sufficiently outrageous conduct to war-
rant such a claim.
Meehan v. Loyola University of Chicago, et al., No.
16 C 10481 (N.D. Ill. 06/05/17).
Did the student’s lawsuit survive the university’s
motion to dismiss?
A. Yes. The court ruled that the campus security
officers acted outside the bounds of their official duties,
and caused actual damages to the plaintiff.
B. Yes. The court held that the university’s actions
could amount to intentional infliction of emotional distress
because they demonstrated indifference to the plaintiff’s
disclosed mental health conditions.
C. No. The judge held that the university’s actions
didn’t result in actual damages to the plaintiff.
D. No. The judge held that the officers didn’t act with
intentional malice toward the plaintiff.
Correct answer: B.
The district judge acknowledged that judges were
reluctant to allow “intentional infliction” lawsuits to proceed
because of the concern that doing so would authorize
such claims by most workers who were terminated or
However, she said courts could find such claims action-
able where the employer clearly abused its power in a
manner far more severe than the typical disagreements or
job-related stress caused by the average work environment.
Considering that Loyola had allegedly known her
particular susceptibility to emotional distress because
of both the bipolar disorder and the sexual assault, the
judge refused to dismiss the lawsuit. She explained that
behavior that otherwise might be considered merely rude
or inconsiderate could be deemed outrageous if the
defendant knew the plaintiff was particularly susceptible
to emotional turmoil. ■
Campus Legal Advisor Board of Advisors
Kathleen C. Boone, Ph.D.
Associate Vice President for
Academic Affairs & Equal Opportunity
and Affirmative Action Officer
Michele G. Bradford, J.D.
Director of Legal Affairs
Gadsden State Community College
Darron C. Farha, M.B.A., J.D.
Vice President and General Counsel
Pamela W. Connelly, J.D.
Associate Vice Chancellor
Diversity and Inclusion
University of Pittsburgh
Laverne Lewis Gaskins, J.D.
Senior Legal Advisor
Georgia Regents University
William F. Maderer, Esq.
Kimberly A. McCabe, Ph.D.
Professor of Criminology
Timothy O’Brien, Esq.
Partner, O’Brien Sports Group
Libby O’Brien Kingsley & Champion
Michael Porter, Esq.
Miller Nash Graham & Dunn LLP
Kevin B. Scott, Esq.
Fox Rothschild LLP