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Brandon v. County of Richardson

    Brief Fact Summary.

    The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled conduct that is deemed to be “extreme and outrageous” caused by a person in a position of power, can create standing to bring an action for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Conduct that rises to the level of “extreme and outrageous” by a person in a position of power, can give standing to bring suit for intentional infliction of emotional distress. 

    Facts.

    JoAnn Brandon (plaintiff) brought wrongful death, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims against County of Richardson (Defendant) and Charles Laux (Defendant) resulting from the death of her daughter Teena (victim). Teena was beaten and raped by two men, John Lotter and Thomas Nissen. Teena reported the incident to Sherriff Laux who was aware of the violent nature and criminal history of the suspects. Sherriff Laux later became aware of Teena receiving death threats from the suspects following the rape. Shortly after, Teena and two others were found murdered. Lotter and Nissen were eventually convicted of all three murders. At trial, the trial court found the County of Richardson negligent and originally awarded damages of $6,223.20 and non-economic damages totaling $80,000. The trial court in total reduced the damages by 86% as a result of the intentional torts caused by the suspects (85%) and a 1% reduction for Teena’s own negligence. The trial court did not award damages pertaining to emotional infliction of emotional distress. 

    Issue.

    Whether a victim who suffered from extreme and outrageous conduct caused by a person in a position of power can bring suit for intentional infliction of emotional distress? 

    Held.

    Yes. The court determined the trial court erred by not awarding damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress. 

    Discussion.

    The court uses an objective standard in determining extreme and outrageous conduct. However, they focus primarily on the relationship between the victim and the person in power. The court mentions the idea that expected things that happen simply by living in society will not rise to the notion of extreme and outrageous, however when the behavior rises to abusive or rude behavior then it may rise to extreme and outrageous. 


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