Tort Law Tidbit

Did you know that there is a cause of action for malicious harrassment in Tennessee? 

The malicious harassment statute, Tennessee Code Annotated, section 4-21-701, provides: "(a) There is hereby created a civil cause of action for malicious harassment. (b) A person may be liable to the victim of malicious harassment for both special and general damages, including, but not limited to, damages for emotional distress, reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, and punitive damages."  Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-21-701 (1998).

The elements of the tort created by this statute were outlined by the Tennessee Supreme Court in Washington v. Robertson County:

"[A] claim of malicious harassment requires not only that a person acted maliciously, i.e., ill-will, hatred or spite, but also that a person unlawfully intimidated another from the free exercise or enjoyment of a constitutional right by injuring or threatening to injure or coercing another person or by damaging, destroying or defacing any real or personal property of another person."

Washington v. Robertson County, 29 S.W.3d 466, 473 (Tenn. 2000).” Id.

To be actionable under section 4-21-701, the harassment must be based on the victim’s "race, color, ancestry, religion or national origin."  Surber v. Cannon, No. M1998-00928-COA-R3-CV, 2001 WL 120735 (Tenn. Ct. App. Feb. 14, 2001).