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Illinois court: Mother's conduct not 'extreme or outrageous'

An Illinois Appellate Court dismissed an unusual lawsuit last week. Two adult children had sued their mother for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Their complaints stem from the contentious divorce of their parents more than 15 years ago.

When the couple split up after 10 years of marriage, the father was granted full custody of the son, now 23; he and the mother shared custody of the daughter, who is now 20. While some of the events cataloged in the complaint occurred before the divorce, the majority took place after.

The plaintiffs maintained that their mother abused them as a way to retaliate against their father. The acrimony between the former spouses led her to favor one child over the other for a time, then switch favorites. She helped her son with college tuition but refused her daughter's request. She helped her son pay for an all-terrain vehicle, but she only bartered and haggled with her daughter when asked for money for homecoming.

The children were raised in a million-dollar home, and they complain that their mother did not send her son Christmas or birthday presents for nine years. She didn't send her daughter presents, either, during one of those years. When she sent cards, she failed to enclose "any type of gift." She never sent care packages to her son when he was in college.

More serious allegations include smacking her son in the head and giving conflicting explanations for his broken arm. The son contended that he still suffered headaches from the smack, though he offered no medical proof. The court notes, too, that the plaintiff provided no evidence that his mother was responsible for the break.

Her son complained that he never visited her house after the divorce, but he also claimed that he told his mother to leave him alone (he was 7), and she did. The two had no contact until the son was emancipated.

The trial court described the children's complaints as "petty grievances of parental attention or inadequacy." The court said the plaintiffs had failed to prove all of the elements of intentional infliction of emotional distress.

We'll go into that in our next post.

Sources:

Chicago Tribune, "'Bad mothering' lawsuit dismissed," Steve Schmadeke, Aug. 28, 2011

Appellate Court of Illinois, First Judicial District, Steven A. Miner II and Kathryn R. Miner v. Kimberly A. Garrity, Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, Aug. 23, 2011

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