Elder Abuse by the Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (Part 3)

By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold, NJ Elder Abuse Attorney

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series I introduced you to a client of mine that we are calling “Jr” and his stepson “CK”. CK has moved Jr’s wife (his mother) to New Jersey without notice or permission from Jr. In this part we will discuss whether or not Jr has a case under intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Based on the facts provided, we have a strong case for IIED. We can establish intent to take the mother/wife from the jurisdiction, but we will need to show CK intentionally took Jr’s wife from the jurisdiction to upset Jr. Even if we can’t establish intent to upset Jr, we will have a very good likelihood to show that CK’s actions were a deliberate disregard of the potential this separation could cause Jr emotional distress, since the couple had a long and loving relationship and Jr is very concerned for her well-being, which is why he filed for a guardianship over his wife.

The conduct is certainly extreme and outrageous, because it breaks up a husband-wife relationship while taking advantage of the mother/wife’s incapacity to convince her not only to leave her husband against her will but also to then file for divorce. The case is also more in line with the husband suing the paramour for breaking up his relationship with his wife then the case of the father being surprised that he was not the biological father of his children, as we have an actual breakdown in the relationship thanks to CK’s actions.

The issue will be to show causation and severe emotional distress. While the case law does not suggest an expert will be required to prove both elements given the heightened standard courts review these claims under, our firm may need to show that Jr was severely damaged both mentally and physically by CK’s actions, and nothing intervened or superseded to cause Jr’s distress. The Supreme Court specifically states that the condition must be “generally recognized and diagnosed by professionals” in order for it to be actionable. The claim of “pain and suffering,” which is an amorphous claim under a negligence action, required an expert to prove causation, according to the Appellate Division. Emotional distress is a form of pain and suffering, so based on that case, an expert would need to also testify that CK and nobody else caused the severe emotional condition Jr has been diagnosed with.

To discuss your NJ Elder Abuse matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com.  Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.