Rahemtulla v Vanfed Credit Union: 1984

(British Columbia Supreme Court) The plaintiff had been harassed at work, falsely accused of theft in threatening circumstances and summarily dismissed without proper cause in a humiliating fashion. The defendant submitted that to be liable for wilful infliction of nervous shock its conduct must be outrageous.
Held: McLachlin J said: ‘This submission appears to be founded on the distinction drawn in American cases between mere insult, which is not actionable, and ‘extreme and outrageous conduct’ which is: Linden: Canadian Tort Law (3rd ed) (1982), p 48. While this distinction appears not to have been expressly adopted in the Canadian and Commonwealth cases, the conduct considered in the leading authorities such as Wilkinson v Downton, and Janvier v Sweeney, was in fact flagrant and extreme. Moreover, it is difficult to accept that the courts should protect persons from every practical joke or unkind comment . . assuming’ that only flagrant and extreme conduct inflicting mental suffering was actionable, the defendant’s conduct could be so described. She identified the two further ingredients of the tort as being: that the conduct was ‘plainly calculated to produce some effect of the kind which was produced’ (quoting from Wright J’s judgment in Wilkinson v Downton), and that the conduct produced provable illness. She found that the conduct was ‘plainly calculated’ to cause profound distress because it was clearly foreseeable.


McLachlin J


[1984] 3 WWR 296


England and Wales


CitedWilkinson v Downton 8-May-1997
Thomas Wilkinson, the landlord of a public house, went off by train, leaving his wife Lavinia behind the bar. A customer of the pub, Downton played a practical joke on her. He told her, falsely, that her husband had been involved in an accident and . .

Cited by:

CitedRhodes v OPO and Another SC 20-May-2015
The mother sought to prevent a father from publishing a book about her child’s life. It was to contain passages she said may cause psychological harm to the 12 year old son. Mother and son lived in the USA and the family court here had no . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Commonwealth, Torts – Other

Updated: 11 May 2022; Ref: scu.566208