How Outrageous is a Tort of “Outrage?”

Posted on Thursday, March 2nd, 2017 at 1:55 pm    

Salvador Dali has been quoted as saying: “the one thing the world will never have enough of is the outrageous.” As a personal injury lawyer, I whole-heartedly disagree.

Most people know that lawsuits can be filed for negligence or for a breach of contract, but in Alabama, lawsuits can also be filed for “outrage.” Outrage occurs when someone does something so outrageous and so extreme that it goes beyond all possible bounds of decency. Even if no negligence is involved, an outrage suit can be filed when a victim experiences emotional distress so severe that no reasonable person should be expected to endure it.

Stated differently, outrage claims are brought by victims after some of the worst events of their lives. In Alabama, claims of outrage have been taken to trial when, for example:

  1. an unlicensed funeral home employee illegally embalmed a family’s loved one and then buried the casket in the wrong direction;
  2. a 15-year-old girl was sexually molested by her friend’s stepfather;
  3. a pregnant woman was harassed by her boss for months until she finally was forced to quit her job;
  4. or a funeral home owner told a family they could no longer bury their father next to their mother a mere thirty minutes before the funeral.

So no, Mr. Dali, the world does not need any more of the outrageous.

To be fair, the tort of outrage is limited. Courts will not hear claims that involve – as former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Sam Beatty wrote – “mere insults, indignities, threats, annoyances, petty oppression, or other trivialities.”

However, if you or a loved one has experienced something outrageous and atrocious at the hands of someone else and it has caused you severe distress, anxiety, embarrassment or pain – that experience is likely not trivial. I recommend contacting an attorney you trust to determine whether you have been the victim of outrage; in certain circumstances, especially those involving sexual assault or a family burial, you may be entitled to a legal remedy.

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