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“Outrageous” conduct and the law

Categories: Personal Injury Resources, WA State Insurance Law

By Arthur D. Leritz. Posted on .

Many of us see things that are outrageous every day – whether it’s on tv, in our community or on our daily commute to work.   Did you know that under Washington law there is an actual claim for outrage caused by a third party?  A claim for outrage is also known as the intentional infliction of emotional distress.  To recover for outrage, you must prove the following elements:

  • Extreme and outrageous conduct;
  • Intentional or reckless infliction of emotional distress; and
  • Actual result to you of severe emotional distress.[1]

To prove extreme and outrageous conduct, it is not enough to show that the defendant acted intentionally or even criminally, or that he or she intended to inflict emotional distress, or even that his or her conduct can be characterized by malice.  Liability for outrage exists only where the conduct has been so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.

For example, a claim for outrage has been found to exist in the stalking of a former girlfriend[2] and an employer’s intentional exposure of employees to toxic chemicals[3].  The conduct must result in severe emotional distress to the plaintiff.  While bodily harm would be an indication of severe emotional distress, severe emotional distress short of bodily harm is sufficient.



[1] Corey v. Pierce County, 154 Wn.App. 752, 225 P.3d 367 (2010).

[2] Kloepfel v. Bokor, 149 Wash.2d 192, 66 P.3d 630 (2003).

[3] Birklid v. Boeing Co., 127 Wash. 2d 853, 904 P.2d 278 (1995).

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