Friday, December 19, 2008

Intentional infliction of Emotional Distress should be a felony!

Last month, Lori Drew, a jealous mother who tortured a neighbor’s daughter until she committed suicide, was convicted on only misdemeanor charges, causing national outrage. It was a classic case of Intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED), an act of psychological torture so extreme as to cause irreparable damage and death.

Child killer Lori Drew: Going to Hell

This type of injustice could only occur in California, a state that makes a mockery of the American legal system, and I’m not the only one who is outraged at this injustice.

Help make psychological torture a felony crime!

I used to work scouring legal databases, using computer to extract case law on specific topics, and I still enjoy reading court cases. You can search the Lexis case law database here, for free. It’s great fun! You can read the actual facts of real-world cases, and it’s better than Judge Judy!

During litigation, the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) is considered a “junk tort”, tossed-in with a pile of other charges in many lawsuits. After all, every victim of fraud experiences some emotional distress, it comes with the crime.

The law says that intentional infliction of emotional distress requires that it be true emotional torture, and intentional infliction of emotional distress must be extreme, outrageous, and result in actual damage to the victim.

But I argue that intentional infliction of emotional distress can be much more than a junk tort. The process of “toying with someone’s feelings” can border on torture, and even though there is a special place in hell for these people, there should also be a special law that forces strict prison sentences for people who torture others.

There are sociopaths who have no problem destroying emotionally fragile people. I’ve heard stories of con artists attended a funeral, crying and claiming to be a close friend who was owed money!

There are also dirtbags who scour the obituaries for opportunities to play on the grief and suffering of others. They contact the surviving loved ones with claims that are designed to inflict extreme emotional distress, with the intent of upsetting them to the point where the grieving family would give them money.

In North Carolina we have the concept of “alienation of affection”, whereby someone entices someone to leave their spouse. The punitive damages are a punishment for bad behavior, and that’s what the courts are for, to heap misery on “home wreckers” who ruin the lives of innocent people!

There is no punishment too great for these predators.

I remember a case in the 1970’s (back before DNA testing) where a scumbag would show up at a man’s doorstep claiming to be an illegitimate child. The wife divorced him, and the lives of a whole family are ruined, all because of some greedy predator.

I’ve also read about cases where a grieving widow is approached by a con artist who says that she was having a relationship with her dead husband.

It’s time to elevate intentional infliction of emotional distress away from a junk tort, and create federal legislation to require all courts to add years to any conviction where the fraudster created emotional distress.

On the internet, a good example was the death threats made to blogger Kathy Sierra, as well as unscrupulous douchebags who undertake to ruin their competitor’s reputations.

For example, this case shows that juries are starting to pay attention to intentional infliction of emotional distress and tortuous interference with business relationships (TIBR).

"A worker at a gourmet coffee company is guilty of libel for hijacking a rival roaster's Web site and linking it to pages displaying pornography and foul language, a jury has found."

The big problem with intentional infliction of emotional distress is that is a civil tort, and the criminals are almost always judgment proof. IIED and TIBR destroy lives and it’s time that national legislation makes intentional infliction of emotional distress and tortuous interference with business relationships a felony crime.

People who undertake to destroy other people’s lives are sociopaths and their acts should not only criminal, but the public should be actively warned about them. They should start a sociopath registry, just like they do with sex offenders, or better still, give them a 21st century scarlet letter. A swastika would be appropriate, placed right on their forehead.