Emotional Distress Claims

Question: Can my clients recover “emotional distress” damages in a claim against a bank, even though they have no physical injury?

Answer: Here are some cases which may be a little like your banking case on the question of recovering emotional distress damages in the absence of physical injury:

Debt Collection - Emotional Distress

Anno. 46 A.L.R.3rd 772, citing Carrigan v. Henderson, 1943 OK 85, 135 P.2d 330: To effect OK allows recovery, but requires proof of intent to injure or knew plaintiff was in a condition such that serious injury was likely to result.

Reeves v. Melton, 1973 OK CIV APP 22, 518 P.2d 57: Recovery allowed. Plaintiff frightened by defendant’s attempt to break in plaintiff’s house, hammering on doors and windows, trying to repo. TV plaintiff had already paid for.

Bennett v. City Nat’l Bk & Tr. Co., Norman, 1975 OK CIV APP 71, 549 P.2d 393): Recovery permitted w/o proof defendant knew plaintiff was in a physical condition to be injured on theory defendant’s action was malicious (threat by bank officer to ruin plaintiff’s credit because of debt owed bank for which plaintiff was not liable). Plaintiff testified was nervous and unable to sleep. No med expert proof of causation. Trial court sustained dem. to evid. under “physical contact” rule. Court of Appeals reversed.

Here are some more general cases on the issue:

Torts - Impact Rule

Obieli v. Campbell Soup Co., 623 F.2d 668 (10th Cir. Okla. 1980): Recovery where plaintiff became ill from seeing insect in soup he had eaten.

Richardson v. J.C. Penney Co., Inc., 1982 OK CIV APP 35, 649 P.2d 565: husband, but not wife, could recover where brakes failed on mountain road, causing fright but not collision, and husband had a bleeding ulcer as a result, while wife had only nervousness and apprehension. J. Boydston’s opin. summarizes earlier cases well.

Ellington v. Coca Cola, 1986 OK 11, 717 P.2d 109: Recovery permitted where plaintiff became ill on seeing foreign object (candy bar she thought was a worm) in a coke she was drinking.

McMeakin v. Roofing and Sheet Metal Supply Co. Of Tulsa, 1990 OK CIV APP 101, 807 P.2d 288: No recovery where plaintiff had a heart attack after house collapsed, allegedly due to negligence of roofer, based on foreseeability but cites earlier cases that recovery can be had for physical manifestation of emotional injury.

87 A.L.R.3rd 201 Anno.

Munley v. ICS Financial House, Inc., 1978 OK 123, 584 P.2d 1336: trial court sustention of MFSJ for defendant reversed where creditor made collection calls or visits early in morning or in evening, contacted neighbors and former employer, advising them plaintiff was “in trouble.” court bases ruling on right of privacy.

If it happens the plaintiff in your case is properly a corporation, this case may be of interest:

Insurance – Bad Faith – Emotional Distress to Shareholder of Insured Corporation

Jadco Management Corporation v. Federal Ins. Co., 2000 OK CIV APP 68, 9 P.3d 92: No emotional distress damage to sole stockholder of insured corporation.