SW Legal studies in Business

Sleeplessness and Weight Gain Are Not Adequate to Support Claim of Emotional Distress
Description

Appeals court held that an employee who was fired for threatening to blow up the house of another employee had no grounds for suit against his employer or managers for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Suffering sleeplessness and weight gain do not rise to the level of actionable events.

Topic Torts
Key Words

Emotional Distress; Employment; Sleeplessness; Weight Gain

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Abdul-Malik worked for AirTran as a ramp agent at the Atlanta airport. When AirTran began to experience an increase in the theft of checked baggage, it assigned people to investigate the problem. A couple months later, the head of the investigation got a phone call at home saying that his home would be blown up because he was “messing with” the caller’s buddies. An undercover detective working for AirTran overhead Abdul-Malik say he made the call. Malik also told another employee that he was going to blow up the investigator’s house. After an investigation, in which several people said they knew of the threat, Malik was fired. He sued AirTran for emotional distress. He claimed it occurred because of the investigation against him, which he claimed was fabricated. He contended that the emotional distress caused him to lose sleep and gain weight. The district court dismissed his suit; he appealed.

Decision

Affirmed. Malik failed to show extreme and outrageous conduct on the part of AirTran or the managers named in the suit. To recover on an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, a plaintiff must show that: 1) defendants’ conduct was intentional or reckless; 2) defendants’ conduct was extreme and outrageous; 3) a causal connection existed between the wrongful conduct and the emotional distress; and 4) the emotional harm was severe.  Several people testified that Malik made the threat against the AirTran investigator, so the company had reason to fire him. There was nothing to indicate an improper investigation of Malik’s threat. His claim of sleeplessness and weight gain does not rise to the level of severe emotional distress needed to possibly bringing a claim.

Citation

Abdul-Malik v. AirTran Airways, ---S.E.2d--- (2009 WL 1331579, Ct. App., GA, 2009)

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