Can university be liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress?

Can university be liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress? 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 unspecified accommodations that would allow her to perform her duties and also receive treatment for her bipolar disorder. The university instead provided her with pamphlets 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 misimpression 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 engaging 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 warrant 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 even disciplined.However, she said courts could find such claims actionable 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 AdvisorsKathleen C. Boone, Ph.D.Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs & Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action OfficerDaemen CollegeMichele G. Bradford, J.D.Director of Legal AffairsGadsden State Community CollegeDarron C. Farha, M.B.A., J.D.Vice President and General CounselValparaiso UniversityPamela W. Connelly, J.D.Associate Vice ChancellorDiversity and InclusionUniversity of PittsburghLaverne Lewis Gaskins, J.D.Senior Legal AdvisorGeorgia Regents UniversityWilliam F. Maderer, Esq.Managing PartnerSaiber LLCKimberly A. McCabe, Ph.D.Professor of CriminologyLynchburg CollegeTimothy O'Brien, Esq.Partner, O'Brien Sports GroupLibby O'Brien Kingsley & ChampionMichael Porter, Esq.PartnerMiller Nash Graham & Dunn LLPKevin B. Scott, Esq.PartnerFox Rothschild LLP http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Campus Legal Advisor Wiley

Can university be liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress?

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Wiley Subscription Services, Inc., A Wiley Company
Copyright
© 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
ISSN
1531-3999
eISSN
1945-6239
D.O.I.
10.1002/cala.30755
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Abstract

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 unspecified accommodations that would allow her to perform her duties and also receive treatment for her bipolar disorder. The university instead provided her with pamphlets 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 misimpression 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 engaging 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 warrant 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 even disciplined.However, she said courts could find such claims actionable 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 AdvisorsKathleen C. Boone, Ph.D.Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs & Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action OfficerDaemen CollegeMichele G. Bradford, J.D.Director of Legal AffairsGadsden State Community CollegeDarron C. Farha, M.B.A., J.D.Vice President and General CounselValparaiso UniversityPamela W. Connelly, J.D.Associate Vice ChancellorDiversity and InclusionUniversity of PittsburghLaverne Lewis Gaskins, J.D.Senior Legal AdvisorGeorgia Regents UniversityWilliam F. Maderer, Esq.Managing PartnerSaiber LLCKimberly A. McCabe, Ph.D.Professor of CriminologyLynchburg CollegeTimothy O'Brien, Esq.Partner, O'Brien Sports GroupLibby O'Brien Kingsley & ChampionMichael Porter, Esq.PartnerMiller Nash Graham & Dunn LLPKevin B. Scott, Esq.PartnerFox Rothschild LLP

Journal

Campus Legal AdvisorWiley

Published: Jan 1, 2018

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