In North Carolina, as in most jurisdictions, a party is liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress where the plaintiff proves that (1) the defendant engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct; (2) the conduct was intended to cause severe emotional distress to the plaintiff; and (3) the defendant’s conduct in fact caused severe emotional distress. Dickens, 302 N.C. 437, 447, 276 S.E.2d 325, 332. Because the tort is intentional (as opposed to based in negligence), the defendant is liable for injuries proximately caused by his conduct, regardless of whether the defendant could have foreseen them. Dickens, 302 N.C. at 449, 276 S.E.2d at 333.
The trial court makes the determination as to whether the conduct arises to the level of “extreme and outrageous, and the alleged conduct must be much more than simply insulting, bothersome or offensive. In addition to demonstrating that the conduct was “extreme and outrageous,” a plaintiff must also show he or she suffered “severe emotional distress” as a result. “Severe emotional distress” means any type of severe and disabling emotional or mental condition, such as neurosis, psychosis, chronic depression or phobia, which may be generally recognized and diagnosed by professionals trained to do so. However, mere temporary fright or anxiety, disappointment or regret is not severe emotional distress.
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