Debt Collector Blamed in Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Dianne McLeod says a debt collector killed her husband Stanley.  

According to CNN, Ms. McLeod alleges that " her mortgage company, Green Tree Servicing, for the wrongful death of her husband. McLeod said she thinks he would be alive if not for the stress caused by Green Tree’s debt collectors. She said they sometimes called up to 10 times a day and also called the McLeods’ neighbors."    Stanley , a heart patient died of heart failure.

The CNN story does not reveal the cause of action being employed in the Florida litigation.  In Tennessee, the Supreme Court has ruled that debt collectors may be liable for damages caused if they engage in intentional infliction of emotional distress, as known as the tort of outrageous conduct.  The case applying this tort to debt collectors is Moorhead v. J.C. Penny, Co. 555. S.W. 2d 713 (Tenn. 1977).   Whether conduct is "outrageous" and whether the conduct caused an injury or death is very much dependent on the facts.

What are the elements of tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress? First, "the conduct complained of must be intentional or reckless".  Second, "the conduct must be so outrageous that it is not tolerated by civilized society".   Third, "the conduct complained of must result in serious mental injury."  A causation requirement is implicit in the third element which necessitates that the misconduct "result in serious mental injury."  For a complete discussion of the law in this area in Tennessee, read Doe v. Roman Catholic Diocese of Nashville,  154 S.W.3d 22 (Tenn. 2005).

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