Identifying and Assessing the Elements of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress in Sport

By Burns, Jodi A. | The Sport Journal, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Identifying and Assessing the Elements of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress in Sport


Burns, Jodi A., The Sport Journal


Introduction

Horror stories of outlandish behavior by coaches in the sport milieu: many have heard the stories, to one extent or another. Many have personally dealt with the accompanying emotions of dread, humiliation, discrimination, and fear that coaches have imposed during practices and games. Many have suffered immeasurably while helplessly watching their child endure torment at the hands of an abusive coach or coaches. Many have asked the same questions: What can be done? What good can possibly come from garnishing discussion with the coach, athletic director or administrator? Will the ordeal continue with new vigor because the problem was brought out into the open? Parents often struggle with these types of questions, wavering in a sea of indecision, wishing for easy solutions to unfortunate situations. And so the questions remain: what can be done; are there potential solutions; and where can one seek advice?

Assuming that the parties involved have exhausted all possible common sense remedies such as speaking directly with the coach and/or the administration, the logical next step would be to turn to tort law within the legal system. A tort is defined in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (1982) as "a wrongful act, damage, or injury done willfully, negligently, or in circumstances involving strict liability, but not involving breach of contract, for which a civil suit can be brought" (p. 1280). According to the Free Online Law Dictionary (2009) a tort has three elements that a plaintiff must ascertain in court. First, it must be established that the defendant be under a legal duty to act in a certain way. Second, it must be shown that the defendant breached this duty by failing to match his or her actions accordingly. Third, it must be shown that the plaintiff suffered injury or loss as a direct result of the defendant's breach.

The difficulty faced by courts considering sport related tort cases in regards to coaching behaviors is to distinguish an exact point where coaches have crossed the line. Because the alleged abuse is emotionally centered, it is difficult to discern emotional abuse from coaching tactics used to motivate athletes to perform at higher levels. Tort law that specifically targets this type of behavior is intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED).

IIED is a tort claim that focuses on intentional conduct resulting in extreme emotional distress which causes a mental reaction such as anguish, grief, or fright in response to another person's actions that brings about recoverable damages. According to Personal Injury Law (2009), to successfully prove a claim for IIED, one must establish four elements: the defendant acted intentionally or recklessly; the defendant's conduct was extreme and outrageous; the defendant's act is the cause of the distress; and the plaintiff suffers severe emotional distress as a result of the defendant's conduct. Unfortunately, these four elements consist of ambiguous wording including such terms as reckless, extreme, outrageous, and severe that attempt to describe defendant actions. Elusive terms such as these have helped to create a confused tort that means "entirely different things to different judges" (Russell, 2008) resulting in wide-ranging court decisions and ones that are difficult to win.

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to identify and assess the elements of intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) and discover legal precedent. An attempt will be made to uncover potential solutions, if any are to be found, that can be employed when confronted with the unfortunate events that surround IIED within the sport environment.

Significance

Understanding the elements of intentional infliction of emotional distress will benefit athletic directors, coaches, athletes, parents, spectators, team owners, commissioners, and others associated with sport. It is essential to appreciate the legal aspects of sport because unique situational variables will inevitably arise in the sport milieu. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Identifying and Assessing the Elements of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress in Sport
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.