What if you found out that your doctor mocked you while you weren't around to hear it (or were maybe just unconscious on the operating table)? Would you feel emotionally distressed? If the doctor jokingly suggested that you had a venereal disease, would you consider yourself slandered? Does the fact that you weren't supposed to find out what the doctor said make a difference? This is what you should know.
People Have The Right To Be Rude — But There Are Limits
Generally speaking, people in our society have the right to be rude and even offensive, to a point. However, when someone's rude or offensive behavior is so extreme that it causes you severe emotional — or even physical — harm, you have a claim for the intentional infliction of emotional distress.
While state laws on what constitutes the intentional infliction of emotional distress vary, courts generally look at how extreme or outrageous the behavior is. The courts will also look at how severe the resulting injury is to the plaintiff. It doesn't matter whether or not the person who behaved badly actually meant for you to find out what was said or done — the fact that he or she behaved in a way that disregarded the possibility that you would find out is still enough to meet the requirements to win the lawsuit.
For example, assume that your doctor mocks you for "being a wimp," calls you names, jokes that someone else might get a disease by touching one of your body parts, and laughs about writing down embarrassing and untrue medical information in your medical chart. The whole thing is accidentally recorded and you hear it all. As a result, you have difficulty sleeping, are very anxious about your future interactions with other doctors, and even seek therapy or medication for a resulting depression. The court could reasonably hold the other person responsible for your distress.
You Can Call Someone A Name — But You Can't Ruin Their Reputation
Defamation often plays a part in the intentional infliction of emotional distress. Defamation is a term that covers untrue oral or written statements that someone makes about you to a third party if that statement injures your reputation. Oral defamation is called slander.
For example, if a doctor merely speculates about your sexual orientation, that may be inappropriate but it probably doesn't equate slander. However, if the doctor speculates that you have some sort of sexually-related disease to his or her co-worker, without any reason or proof, that could certainly equate slander. For one thing, a doctor might be presumed to recognize the signs and symptoms of certain venereal diseases — so his or her "joke" could be taken very seriously by someone else, and therefore seriously damage your reputation!
Some people simply don't realize — or care — how hurtful their words can be — especially if they think that what they say isn't going to get back to the victim. Regardless of the circumstances, if you've been injured by someone's statements, talk to an attorney to see if you have a case for a lawsuit due to the intentional infliction of emotional distress or defamation. For more information about personal injury law, contact a firm such as Arrington Schelin & Munsey PC.