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Hulk Hogan Awarded $60 Million For Emotional Distress

Every now and then, you read about someone filing a lawsuit trying to recover for emotional distress, and you probably wonder, “Is this a real thing?” One of those cases, may have been Terry Bollea, more commonly known by his professional wrestling alias Hulk Hogan, filing suit against Gawker Media, and its owner Nick Denton, for an invasion of privacy claim stemming from the leak of a sex tape featuring Terry Bollea.

The case and high-profile trial was mainly covered by the media as a First Amendment case involving issues of privacy and free speech, but among the law suit’s counts was a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED).

On Friday, March 18, 2016, a Florida civil jury awarded Hulk Hogan $115 million total, $60 million of which was for emotional distress.

So what exactly is IIED, and how does it work in the Florida courts?

Requirements Of IIED

IIED is its own cause of action in the state of Florida. To state a claim for IIED in Florida, the facts supporting the claim must be of such a quality as to cause an average member of the community hearing the facts to exclaim, “Outrageous!” It is an odd, but tried and true standard that even most law students learn in their first semester of law school.

Stating a claim is one thing, but to win a claim of IIED in Florida, you must prove:

  • the wrongdoer’s conduct was intentional or reckless, or in other words, that he intentionally engaged in the conduct even though he knew or should have known that it would likely cause emotional distress;

  • the conduct was outrageous and considered atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community;

  • the conduct caused the emotional distress; and

  • the emotional distress was severe.

A claim of IIED is not easy to prove; mere rude or insensitive behavior does not qualify as outrageous conduct. Examples of outrageous conduct would be:

  • telling a child her parents had died as a prank;

  • an insurance agent convincing his client to surrender a health insurance policy by lying about the client’s health status;

  • taking compromising photos of an employee or co-worker without consent and passing the pictures around the office.

Severity Of The Emotional Distress

Emotional distress is necessarily a nebulous and abstract concept, and it is often one of the most difficult elements to prove in court.

The emotional distress suffered must be severe. The definition of severe is vague, and how much evidence you need to prove the severity of your emotional distress will often vary with the outrageousness of the conduct.

If the level of severity requires the help of counselors, therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, or social workers; or manifests as physical symptoms such as ulcers, headaches, or cardiac conditions that require you to see medical professionals; records of those treatments would go a long way towards proving severe emotional distress.

IIED is a complicated claim, and often difficult to substantiate, but in some cases, it may be your only recourse to address the outrageous actions of another. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help.