The legal definition of emotional distress is when one party acts in a manner that causes another person to suffer through intentional or negligent behavior that leads to severe mental anguish. So, to build a solid case, you must clearly demonstrate what the landlord did and how it impacted you mentally and emotionally. To meet the burden of proof, you must:
- Prove the landlord behaved in a way that was intentionally harmful or negligent
- Show that the landlord’s behavior went beyond the scope of regular human decency
- Establish that the consequences of the behavior were foreseeable by the landlord
- Explain the consequences of the landlord’s behavior and how it led to your emotional distress.
Also, remember that emotional distress can manifest itself in many different ways. Common symptoms of emotional distress include anxiety, depression, PTSD, mood swings, irritability, insomnia, and a range of other mental health disorders. If you can get a diagnosis from a mental health professional proving that you suffered from one of these conditions due to the landlord’s behavior, it will help strengthen your argument.
- Gather Evidence
- Contact an Attorney
- File a Claim
- Take it to Trial
1. Gather Evidence
The first step to suing your landlord for emotional distress is to gather as much evidence as possible to support your case. Emotional distress lawsuits can be complex because the symptoms may be entirely psychological, making them less cut and dry than other legal cases. So, try to document the situation as best as possible, including the aftermath.
For instance, if the landlord left you any threatening voicemails or communications that clearly violate their legal responsibilities and basic common decency, hold onto them. Or if there is an issue with the apartment that they refused to address, which violated your right to quiet enjoyment, take photos and videos. The more evidence you have to prove the landlord acted in a harmful or negligent manner and how it impacted you mentally, the easier it will be to convince a judge or jury of your suffering.
2. Contact an Attorney
Once you’ve gathered sufficient evidence, you’ll want to contact an attorney. While you have the right to represent yourself, your chances of winning are much higher if you hire a professional, especially if the landlord also hires a skilled attorney. A lawyer will be able to look at all the evidence, let you know whether or not you have a case, and help you build a strong argument. They will also help you file the appropriate paperwork and advise you on how to prepare for trial.
Emotional distress cases can be challenging to litigate, and a competent defense lawyer may be able to poke holes in your argument. So, you’ll want to have a solid team to back you up and help you build your case.
3. File a Claim
The next step is to file a claim for intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress and begin the legal process. If a judge agrees that you have a case, they will give you a court date, and the landlord will be served with the appropriate paperwork. While you wait for your case to go to trial, you should strategize with your attorney on how to present your argument. During this phase, information will be exchanged between legal teams, including any deposition, physical evidence, and written communications. If you have a strong case, the landlord may reach out to discuss a settlement and not risk taking it to trial.
4. Take it to Trial
Finally, the case will be brought before a judge if you and the landlord cannot agree on a settlement beforehand. You will both have the opportunity to present your side of the story and provide any evidence to back it up. The burden of proof is on you to clearly demonstrate that the landlord behaved in a reckless or negligent manner that caused you considerable emotional turmoil. However, if you have a strong argument and evidence to back it up, you have a good chance of winning. Once all the evidence has been presented from both sides, the judge or jury will deliberate and give a final verdict.
Suing a landlord for emotional distress can be complicated, and you must have substantial proof to support your claims. But if you suffered severe psychological and emotional distress due to the conduct of your landlord, you have a right to hold them legally accountable. Just be sure to gather as much evidence as possible and find a good lawyer to help you build your case.