September 16, 2021

Requirements for stating a justiciable claim alleging the employer intentionally inflicted emotional distress on the distressed employee

The motion court denied the complaint's [Plaintiff] motion for leave to amend his complaint alleging unlawful employment retaliation in violation of Not-For-Profit Corporation Law §715-b by adding claims alleging "intentional infliction of emotional distress" among others.

Sustaining the Supreme Court's decision, the Appellate Division explained that to state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress in such an action a party must allege:

1. "extreme and outrageous conduct;

2. an "intent to cause, or disregard of a substantial probability of causing, severe emotional distress;

3. "a causal connection between the conduct and injury; and

4. "severe emotional distress."

Citing 164 Mulberry St. Corp. v Columbia Univ., 4 AD3d 49, the court said that "Whether the requisite 'outrageousness of the conduct' has been satisfied by the petitioner's allegations is, in the first instance, an issue of law for judicial determination."

In this instance, said the Appellate Division, although Plaintiff alleged, "in a conclusory fashion that the defendants [Respondents] engaged in a pattern of harassment that caused Plaintiff to suffer from anxiety and stress that eventually led to a serious cardiac event," it found that Plaintiff's allegations of abusive conduct directed at him in the context of his employment "do not rise to the level of outrageousness required to state a claim."

Further, opined the Appellate Division, Plaintiff's proposed amendment did not allege facts establishing that Plaintiff had an "imminent apprehension of harmful or offensive contact" to support a claim for assault.

The Appellate Division also addressed a "new claim for standard negligence" in the proposed amended complaint and opined that it "fails to allege with the requisite specificity that the [Respondent] board members acted with gross negligence in the training and supervision of [Plaintiff's supervisor] nor did Plaintiff present any specific allegations that the [Respondent] board members "acted intentionally."

Accordingly, the court found that Plaintiff's negligence claim was barred by the qualified immunity defense available to uncompensated board members under §720-a of the Not-For-Profit Corporation Law.

Click HERE to access the Appellate Division's decision

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