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Justin Bieber 'Egging' Victim Sues Over Emotional Distress

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on March 20, 2015 11:34 AM

Apparently Justin Bieber's heartfelt apology did not mollify all the irate victims of his many shenanigans. Bieber's neighbor, Jeff Schwartz, whose house was previously egged by Bieber, is suing the naughty singer. This time, Schwartz is claiming unspecified damages for assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and trespass.

Specifically, the lawsuit claims that Bieber's bodyguard once taunted Schwartz, calling him "little Jew boy."

Does Schwartz really have a claim against Bieber for intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED)?

What Is IIED?

While the laws regarding IIED vary from state to state, the general elements are:

  1. Extreme or outrageous conduct -- To qualify for IIED, an action or statement must be extreme or outrageous. Common taunts and insults don't qualify, as courts expect people to have a thick skin. To be extreme and outrageous, the conduct must exceed the bounds of decency. So telling someone their cat looks like an ugly fat rat would not be extreme or outrageous, However, telling your neighbor you ran over her cat and dumped the body in the swimming pool (even if you didn't actually do it) could potentially rise to the level of extreme and outrageous conduct.
  2. Conduct that intentionally or recklessly causes distress -- This means the actor must have intended the action or comment to cause emotional distress.
  3. Severe emotional distress -- Embarrassment, shame, sadness are all forms of emotional distress, but they would not necessarily qualify as severe emotional distress. The emotional distress needs to be beyond what any reasonable person should have to withstand. Proving severe emotional distress is often difficult. However, distress is usually severe if it causes some kind of physical ailment, such as an ulcer, depression, or perhaps even a headache.

So is the bodyguard's conduct truly intentional infliction of emotional distress? While the alleged comment was anti-Semitic, the neighbor would have to prove that it somehow exceeded the bounds of decency and that his distress was severe.

Still, assuming that Schwartz really could prove IIED, isn't he suing the wrong person? After all, Bieber didn't make those anti-Semitic comments, his bodyguard allegedly did.

Respondeat Superior

While it was the bodyguard who made the comment, Bieber might still be liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior. This principle holds the employer liable for an employee's actions during the performance of his duties. Often, plaintiffs want to sue an employer rather than the actual employee because the employer has more money to pay a judgment. So, since the bodyguard was working for Bieber and doing what he was hired to do at the time of the insult, Bieber could be held responsible for his employee's actions.

The lawsuit against Bieber has yet to be adjudicated. Even if the pop star could get the IIED claim dismissed, Bieber will still have to deal with the assault, battery, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and trespass claims leveled against him.

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