Plaintiff appeals from an adverse judgment entered after the sustaining of a general demurrer to her first amended complaint without leave to amend.
That the above facts, if true, spell out a cause of action we have no doubt. In Emden v. Vitz, 88 Cal.App.2d 313 [198 P.2d 696], the defendants after locking plaintiff out of her apartment took her to the apartment house office and there used toward her violent and abusive language as a result of which she suffered emotional distress and consequent physical illness for which she was awarded damages. On appeal the defendants argued (88 Cal.App.2d 316) "that there can be no cause of action for personal injuries resulting from fright caused chiefly by spoken words alone." The court, after a review of authorities, stated (88 Cal. App.2d p. 318):
"As these and other cases cited above amply illustrate, the nature of the wrongful conduct which induces physical harm through its effect on the mind and nervous system is generally immaterial. The determination whether or not given conduct is legally wrongful, of course, may involve factual distinctions of importance and substance (compare Rest., Torts, § 312 with ibid., § 313); but once the wrongful quality is established, it matters not whether that conduct consisted of acts alone, or of acts accompanied by words, or of mere spoken words alone, for the legal inquiry in each case is thenceforth confined to the well-established channels of proximate cause and damages."
Section 312, Restatement of Torts, cited in the above quotation, reads:
"If the actor intentionally and unreasonably subjects another to emotional distress which he should recognize as
"(a) although the actor has no intention of inflicting such harm, and
"(b) irrespective of whether the act is directed against the other or a third person."
The important elements are that the act is intentional, that it is unreasonable, and that the actor should recognize it as likely to result in illness. Given these elements the modern cases recognize that mere words, oral or written, which result in physical injury to another are actionable. (Grimes v. Gates, 47 Vt. 594 [19 Am.Rep. 129] (threat of imprisonment); Whitsel v. Watts, 98 Kan. 508 [159 P. 401, L.R.A. 1917A 708] (violent and threatening language); Johnson v. Sampson, 167 Minn. 203 [208 N.W. 814, 46 A.L.R. 772] (false oral charge by teachers of unchastity of schoolgirl); Erwin v. Milligan, 188 Ark. 658 [67 S.W.2d 592] (indecent oral proposal to married woman); Clark v. Associated Retail Credit Men, 105 F.2d 62 [70 App.D.C. 183] (threatening and abusive letters); Kirby v. Jules Chain Stores Corp., 210 N.C. 808 [188 S.E. 625] (threatening and abusive language); Wilson v. Wilkins, 181 Ark. 137 [25 S.W.2d 428] (oral threats of violence); Barnett v. Collection Service Co., 214 Iowa 1303 [242 N.W. 25] (written threats and abuse); Nickerson v. Hodges, 146 La. 735 [84 So. 37, 9 A.L.R. 361] (practical joke causing shame and humiliation with consequent illness); Malczewski v. New Orleans Ry. & Light Co., 156 La. 830 [101 So. 213, 35 A.L.R. 553] (offensive and insulting language); La Salle Extension University v. Fogarty, 126 Neb. 457 [253 N.W. 424, 91 A.L.R. 1491] (threatening letters); Quina v. Roberts (La. App.), 16 So.2d 558 (disparaging letter to plaintiff's employer); Wilkinson v. Downton (1897), 2 Q.B. 57 (falsely telling woman her husband seriously injured); Janvier v. Sweeney (1919), 2 K.B. 316 (false accusation of being a spy); Bielitski v. Obadiak, 65 Dom.L.R. (Sask.) 62 (false statement that plaintiff's son was suicide); Prosser on Torts, pp. 57-61; 52 Am.Jur. pp. 419-423.)
We entertain no doubt that the intentional use of such an unreasonable method of attempting to collect a debt which proximately results in physical illness is actionable.
The briefs contain much discussion of whether the complaint would support a recovery on the theory of a violation of the
However since the complaint states a cause of action on the theory first discussed the decision of the other question becomes unnecessary.
Judgment reversed with directions to the trial court to overrule the demurrer.
Nourse, P.J., and Goodell, J., concurred.