I came across a few blog posts this morning that raised an interesting question: Whether Mothers Against Drunk Driving intentionally inflicted emotional distress on high school students in California:
Many juniors and seniors were driven to tears – a few to near hysterics
– May 26 when a uniformed police officer arrived in several classrooms
to notify them that a fellow student had been killed in a
The officer read a brief eulogy, placed a rose on the deceased
student’s seat, then left the class members to process their thoughts
and emotions for the next hour.
About an hour later, the students were all called to the school’s stadium were they were told the entire thing was a hoax sponsored by MADD. The program was designed to show the students the effects of drinking and driving. This is a noble and worthy cause, but it seems that some of the students may have been left a bit traumatized by the experience. Some people are asking whether MADD and the other organizers committed intentional infliction of emotional distress. One organizer admiitted they tried to traumatize the students on purpose:
“If I sit there and lecture somebody in a nice way, it’s going to go in
one ear and out the other,” he said. “In today’s world, where they have
all sorts of gore and fantastic things that kids can access on the
computer, if you want to compete with that, you have to jar them
“I want them to be an emotional wreck. I don’t want them to have to live through this for real.”
The elements in Florida for IIED are:
(1) Defendant’s conduct was intentional or reckless;
(2) Defendant’s conduct was outrageous;
(3) Defendant’s conduct caused emotional distress; and
(4) Plaintiff suffered severe emotional distress.
So, did MADD (a great organization, by the way) and other organizers overstep their bounds and cross into the infliction of emotional pain? Was making unwilling students suffer? Everyone seems to have an opinion on this, what is yours?