Torts I, Pages 69–70

Taylor v. Vallelunga

District Court of Appeal of California, 1959

Facts:

Plaintiff's father was struck and beat by defendant. Plaintiff witnessed this and suffered severe fright and emotional distress as a result despite suffering no physical injury herself.

Procedural History:

Defendant interposed a general demurrer, which was sustained, leading to a judgment of dismissal.

Issue:

Can one recover for intentional infliction of emotional distress for secretly witnessing a relative being battered despite not receiving injury himself?

Rule:

[A] cause of action is established when it is shown that one, in the absence of any privilege, intentionally subjects another to the mental suffering incident to serious threats to his physical well-being, whether or not the threats are made under such circumstances as to constitute a technical assault.

Reasoning:

Defendant was not aware plaintiff was watching the battery and thus did not have intent to inflict emotional distress upon her.

Holding:

No, the defendant must be aware the plaintiff is watching to be liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Affirmed.

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