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Autor: anton 02 January 2011
Words: 658 | Pages: 3
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Case Brief -Chapter 5
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
March 10, 08
GTE Southwest Inc. v. Bruce
998 S.W. 2d 605 (1999)
Three GTE employees, Rhonda Bruce, Linda Davis, and Joyce Poelstra, sued GTE for intentional infliction of emotional distress premised on the constant humiliating and abusive behavior of their supervisor, Morris Shields. Shields worked as a supervisor in GTE's supply department in Jacksonville, Arkansas. During his tenure there, four of Shields's [**2] subordinate employees (none of the employees involved in this case) filed formal grievances against Shields with GTE, alleging that Shields constantly harassed them. As a result of these complaints, GTE investigated Shields's conduct in 1988 and 1989, but took no formal disciplinary action against him. In May 1991, GTE transferred Shields from Jacksonville to Nash, Texas, where he became the supply operations supervisor. Like the GTE employees in Jacksonville, Bruce, Davis, and Poelstra complained to GTE of Shields's conduct, alleging that Shields constantly harassed and intimidated them. GTE investigated these complaints in [**3] April 1992, after which GTE issued Shields a "letter of reprimand." After the reprimand, Shields discontinued some of his egregious conduct, but did not end it completely. Eventually, Bruce, Davis, and Poelstra sought medical treatment for emotional distress caused by Shields's conduct. In March 1994, the employees filed suit, alleging that GTE intentionally inflicted emotional distress on them through Shields.
In this case we determine whether three GTE Southwest, Incorporated employees may recover damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress based on the workplace conduct of their supervisor. The trial court rendered judgment for the employees on the jury verdict, and the court of appeals affirmed. GTE Southwest, Inc. v. Bruce, 956 S.W.2d 636. We affirm the judgment of the court of appeals.
Issue: GTE argues that, because it is a subscriber to the Texas Workers' Compensation Act, the employees' claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress is barred by the Act, which provides the exclusive remedy for an employee covered by workers' compensation insurance against an employer for a work-related injury.
An employee may recover damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress in an employment context as long as the employee establishes the elements of the cause of action. See Wornick Co. v. Casas, 856 S.W.2d 732, 734 (Tex. 1993). HN11 To recover damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress, a plaintiff must prove that: (1) the defendant acted intentionally or recklessly; (2) the conduct was extreme and outrageous; (3) the actions of the defendant caused the plaintiff emotional distress; and (4) the resulting emotional distress was severe.
The employees complained about Shields's daily use of profanity, short temper, and his abusive and vulgar dictatorial manner. The employees complained that, among other offensive acts, [*609] Shields repeatedly yelled, screamed, cursed, and even "charged" at them. In addition, he intentionally humiliated and embarrassed the employees. Eventually, Bruce, Davis, and Poelstra sought medical treatment for emotional distress caused by Shields's conduct. In March 1994, the employees filed suit, alleging that GTE intentionally inflicted emotional distress on them through Shield.
The court held that the Texas Workers' Compensation Act did not bar respondents' claim because respondents' injuries were not compensable under the Act. The court held that respondents established the elements of a cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
In sum, we hold that the employees' claims are not barred by the Workers' Compensation Act because their injuries are not compensable under the Act. We conclude [**42] that there is legally sufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict against GTE on each of the employees' claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress. OUTCOME: The court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals that respondent employees could recover damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The court held that respondents' supervisor's conduct was outside the scope of an ordinary employment dispute and into the realm of extreme and outrageous conduct.
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