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Monday, February 26, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Agent Can Sue Developer for Emotional Distress

(CN) - An Idaho real estate agent can move forward with a claim that he was a victim of emotional distress from a developer's sexual advances, the Idaho Court of Appeals ruled.

Real estate agent Curtis "Jay" Johnson had already worked on one project with developer Mike McPhee when they planned to work together a second time. Johnson did not sign a commission agreement, but the two had an oral agreement that he would be paid a commission.

However, when McPhee began developing Radiant Lake Estates in the Coeur d'Alene area, he refused to pay Johnson for finding the land.

During these business dealings, the relationship between the two men was marked by an undercurrent of sexual innuendo, according to the ruling. Johnson said McPhee repeatedly demanded that he engage in sexual acts with him, and that McPhee threatened to have sex with Johnson's girlfriend.

Johnson produced evidence that McPhee's sexual baiting and derogatory name-calling harmed his health. Johnson said he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and "strange chaotic bodily experiences."

The trial court granted summary judgment to McPhee on the claims of breach of contract and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Judge Lansing ruled in favor of McPhee on the contract claim, because Idaho real estate contracts must be in writing in order to be enforceable. McPhee also prevailed on the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, because the court said his conduct was not sufficiently outrageous.

However, the judges said Johnson could go to trial on his negligent infliction of emotional distress claim, due to McPhee's knowledge of Johnson's fragile emotional state.

"Evidence is sufficient to permit an inference that McPhee was aware of Johnson's unique emotional delicacy such that he foresaw or reasonably should have foreseen that serious emotional harm would result from his alleged verbal abuse of Johnson."

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