Summary of Slocum v. Food Fair Stores of Florida, S. Ct. FL, 1958
Relevant Facts: Defendant’s employee in answering the PL’s inquiry about the price of an item stated, “If you want to know the price, you’ll have to find out the best you can * * * you stink to me." PL had a pre-existing heart disease condition. PL asserts that the language was malicious and caused her mental suffering and emotional distress which lead to a heart attack.
Legal Issue(s): Whether a deliberate a verbally offensive statement, by an employee, supports a claim as intentional infliction of emotional distress or the statement merely an innocuous one?
Court’s Holding: It is innocuous.
Procedure: First impression. Trial court dismissed for failure to state a claim. Affirmed.
Law or Rule(s): A) The conduct must be intentional or reckless; b) The conduct must be extreme and outrageous; c) There must be a causal connection between the wrongful conduct and the emotional distress; d) the emotional distress must be severe.
Court Rationale: There is a clear line of demarcation between “emotional distress," and “severe emotional distress," that excludes the case before the bar. The facts of the present case cannot be brought within their reasonable intendment. The strained reasoning by PL that this court should identify a new tort, as an independent intentional infliction of emotional distress, is refuted. Relief is allowed for offense reasonably suffered by a patron from an insult by a servant or employee of a carrier, hotel, theater, or telegraph office. The existence of a special relationship supports a right and correlative duty of courtesy beyond the legally required in general mercantile or personal relationships.
Liability only for conduct exceeding all bounds which could be tolerated by society, of a nature especially calculated to cause mental damage
Plaintiff’s Argument: The offensive words of the employee were foreseeable to cause severe emotional distress, exampled by the heart attack.
Defendant’s Argument: The words were of a nature not likely to be reproduced, nor foreseeable to cause severe emotional distress.
Innocuous-lacking impact, insipid.
Respondeat superior- the master is liable in certain cases for the wrongs of his servants.