allegations, however, that these comments were directed towards any specific third-parties, especially third-parties with whom Cook expected to do business. Because Cook has failed to name any specific parties or allege that Winfrey attempted to interfere directly with any specific party, Cook has failed to allege elements (1) and (3) above, and this count fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
VI. Count VI: Tortious Interference With A Contract
In Count VI, Cook asserts a cause of action for tortious interference with a contract. Cook alleges that Winfrey's statements that he was a liar and that she and Cook had never had a relationship interfered with a contractual relationship between himself and the National Enquirer. In order to state a cause of action for tortious interference with a contractual relationship, a plaintiff must allege the following elements: 1) the existence of a valid contract between the plaintiff and a third party; 2) defendant's knowledge of the contract; 3) the defendant's intentional and malicious inducement of the breach; 4) a subsequent breach by the third party due to the defendant's wrongful conduct; and 5) damages resulting from the breach. Williams v. Shell Oil Co., 18 F.3d 396, 402 (7th Cir. 1994), citing Lusher v. Becker Bros., Inc., 155 Ill. App. 3d 866, 509 N.E.2d 444, 445, 108 Ill. Dec. 748 (Ill.App.), appeal denied, 511 N.E.2d 430 (Ill. 1987)(other citations omitted). Because we find that Cook has not alleged all of these elements, we dismiss this count as well.
First, Cook did not adequately assert that there was either a valid contract between himself and the National Enquirer or that a valid contract was breached by the Enquirer. Cook alleges that he "entered into a contractual relationship with the National Enquirer" (Complaint P45) and that because of Winfrey's remarks, "the contract was not effectuated." (Complaint P49). The first statement does not establish that a valid contract existed between Cook and the Enquirer; it merely alleges that a contractual relationship existed between the parties. Similarly, the second statement does not show that the Enquirer breached a valid contract, but rather shows that a contract between the parties was not effectuated. It is established that no cause of action exists for intentional interference with a contract under Illinois law if the plaintiff has failed to establish that there was an actual breach of contract. See George A. Fuller Co. v. Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine, 719 F.2d 1326, 1331 (7th Cir. 1983). Thus, since Cook did not allege the existence of a valid contract or of a breach, he fails to state a cause of action.
Even assuming that Cook had adequately alleged these elements, he failed to assert that Winfrey induced the National Enquirer to breach the contract and his claim must fail. Under Illinois law, liability for tortious interference with a contract may only be based "on acts immediately directed at a third party which cause that party to breach its contract with the plaintiff." Fuller, 719 F.2d at 1331, citing Mitchell v. Weiger, 87 Ill. App. 3d 302, 409 N.E.2d 38, 42 Ill. Dec. 543 (Ill.App. 1980). Cook's amended complaint is devoid of allegations that Winfrey directed any acts toward the National Enquirer and induced them to breach their contract with Cook. In his complaint, Cook alleges that "Winfrey publicly and privately made the defamatory statements respecting Cook" and that "subsequent to Winfrey's defamatory statements respecting Cook, the contract was not effectuated." See Complaint PP47, 49. He also asserts that Winfrey has "intentionally and without justification induced others to ... breach their contract ... with Cook", and that she has induced others to not enter contracts with Cook. Id. at P50. These general allegations that Winfrey made comments which caused Cook's relationship with the Enquirer to end do not establish that Winfrey directed her comments towards the Enquirer and induced the breach. The mere allegations that Winfrey made public comments which attack Cook's veracity does not show any attempt on her part to directly induce the Enquirer to breach a contract. As such, Cook does not allege all of the elements of his claim, and it is dismissed.
VII. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
Finally, Cook alleges that Winfrey's comments that he was a liar constitute intentional infliction of emotional distress. In order to state a cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress under Illinois law, a plaintiff must allege facts which establish that:
(1) the defendant's conduct was extreme and outrageous; (2) the defendant either intended that his conduct should inflict severe emotional distress, or knew that there was a high probability that his conduct would cause severe emotional distress; [and] (3) the defendant's conduct in fact caused sever emotional distress.
Doe v. Calumet City, 161 Ill. 2d 374, 641 N.E.2d 498, 506, 204 Ill. Dec. 274 (Ill. 1994), citing Public Finance Corp. v. Davis, 66 Ill. 2d 85, 360 N.E.2d 765, 4 Ill. Dec. 652 (Ill. 1976). Because we find that Cook has not adequately alleged such a claim, we grant Winfrey's motion to dismiss this claim as well.
In order to be considered extreme and outrageous, a defendant's conduct must be of such a character that "recitation of the facts to an average member of the community would arouse his resentment against the actor, and lead him to exclaim, 'Outrageous!'" Doe, 641 N.E.2d at 507, citing Restatement (Second) of Torts § 46, comment d, at 73 (1965). Put differently, "liability has been found only where the conduct has been so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of human decency." Public Finance, 360 N.E.2d at 767. In determining whether the defendant's conduct is so qualified, an objective standard, based on all the facts and circumstances of the particular case, is employed. Id., citing McGrath v. Fahey, 126 Ill. 2d 78, 533 N.E.2d 806, 127 Ill. Dec. 724 (Ill. 1988). The facts alleged in Cook's complaint, taken as a whole, do not allege that Winfrey's conduct was objectively "Outrageous!", and Cook has failed to adequately plead a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The allegations in the complaint assert that Winfrey engaged in the following conduct with respect to Cook: she stated that he was a liar who was not to be trusted or believed, that he would be very sorry if he told his story to anyone else, and denied any relationship with Cook (Complaint P13); she allegedly stated that she would "fight this suit until I am bankrupt before I give even a penny to this liar [Cook] (Complaint P21); she allegedly stated that this present case is a "pack of lies" (Complaint P22); and she stated that she has done "what is proper to stop him from spreading his lies" (Complaint P37). Viewing the situation as a whole, these alleged comments by Winfrey are not "Outrageous! ", and there was no extreme or outrageous conduct on the part of Winfrey in this case.
The gist of Cook's allegations are that Winfrey called him a liar and denied that she had had a relationship with him or abused drugs. Winfrey's denials of Cook's assertions can hardly be called "Outrageous!" conduct-- merely stating that something claimed as fact by another person did not happen is not outrageous in the least. Similarly, calling someone a "liar" does not amount to outrageous and extreme behavior. It is clear that "mere insults, indignities, threats, annoyances, petty oppressions or trivialities" are not actionable as intentional infliction of emotional distress. Oates v. Discovery Zone, 116 F.3d 1161, 1174, 1997 U.S. App. LEXIS 14997, 1997 WL 342883 at *14 (7th Cir. 1997), quoting McGrath, 533 N.E.2d at 809. Similarly, the tort does not encompass acts which are only "inconsiderate, rude, vulgar, uncooperative, unprofessional and unfair." Oates, 116 F.3d 1161, 1174, 1997 U.S. App. LEXIS 14997, 1997 WL 342883 at *14, citing Miller v. Equitable Life Assurance Society, 181 Ill. App. 3d 954, 537 N.E.2d 887, 889, 130 Ill. Dec. 558 (Ill.App. 1989)(other citations omitted). Winfrey's alleged comments were at worst insults, and as such they cannot be the basis for a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Furthermore, the context in which these comments were allegedly made also shows that they were not outrageous. According to the complaint, Cook was attempting to sell juicy information he knew about Winfrey, a national celebrity, to various sources. In reaction, Winfrey denied that Cook's allegations were true, stated that he was lying, and stated that she would try to stop him from publishing the information. Winfrey's reaction to the situation with which she was faced cannot be said to be objectively outrageous or go beyond the bounds of human decency. Cook has not alleged that Winfrey ever engaged in more than verbal activity, and such a reaction is not extreme or outrageous in this case. Since Cook has failed to allege that Winfrey acted in an outrageous manner, his claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress is deficient.
Even if Cook had alleged outrageous conduct on the part of Winfrey, he has failed to allege that he suffered severe emotional distress, and his claim is insufficient at any rate. It is established that the infliction of emotional distress is not enough to precipitate liability in Illinois; the emotional distress must be severe. Public Finance, 360 N.E.2d at 767. Thus,
although fright, horror, grief, shame, humiliation, worry, etc. may fall within the ambit of the term "emotional distress," these mental conditions alone are not actionable. "The law intervenes only where the distress inflicted is so severe that no reasonable man could be expected to endure it. ..."
Id., quoting Restatement (Second) of Torts, sec.46, comment j (1965). In his complaint, Cook asserts that he suffered from "great anxiety, nervousness, humiliation, fright, sleeplessness, nausea and apprehension" as a result of Winfrey's actions. See Complaint P56. However, these reactions are not so terrible that the average man could not be expected to endure them. While certainly unpleasant, Cook's allegations manifest that he suffered from fright, not "severe" emotional distress, and he has failed to allege this element of his claim as well. Since his claim is insufficient in several respects, it is dismissed.
For the reasons set forth above, the defendant's motion to dismiss is granted, and the plaintiff's amended complaint is dismissed.
Charles P. Kocoras
United States District Judge
Dated: July 9, 1997
© 1992-2004 VersusLaw Inc.