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911 Operator who belittles caller is not responsible for "negligent infliction of mental anguish"

Lorraine Hayes was shot several times by a former boyfriend.  She called 911 on her cell phone, but was berated by the 911 operator who repeatedly insisted that she must be a mental patient.  Eventually Hayes recruited her son in Minnesota to send police and an ambulance to her aid.  When Hayes sued the operator for negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress and anguish, her claims were dismissed unless she is able to prove that the 911 operator acted with intent to injure her.

The Court noted that the operator, as a government employee, is immune from ordinary negligence and responsible only for gross negligence.  It also refused to recognize the infliction of mental anguish, without an accompanying physical injury, as a cause of action. 

One of the "Justices" (we use that term with some sense of irony) would go even further and dissented even from recognizing a claim for intentional wrong-doing.  He wrote that "mere insults, indignities, threats, annoyances, petty oppressions or other trivialities" are insufficient to create liability for [even] intentional infliction of emotional distress."  We imagine that to the shooting victim lying on her floor bleeding for thirty minutes while waiting for an ambulance, the berating of a 911 operator would not be described as "petty" or "trivial".  Even using those adjectives in this context is unworthy of the "Justice".

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
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