Civil Liability for Stalking in Tennessee — Lawsuits and Damages

Stalking is willful conduct involving repeated harassment of someone that causes them to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested. Not only is the conduct a crime in Tennessee, but it also can rise to a civil lawsuit and a damage award if it results in the victim suffering serious or severe emotional distress.

A theory of liability that stalking victims can use to pursue a civil claim for money damages against the stalker is either intentional infliction of emotional distress or negligent infliction of emotional distress.  In a claim for intentional claim for emotional distress the victim must prove that the stalker intentionally or recklessly engaged in outrageous conduct that caused the victim serious or severe emotional injury.  In negligent infliction of emotional distress claims the victims must prove that the stalker negligently engaged in conduct that caused serious or severe emotional injury.

In the conduct was intentional or reckless, no medical evidence is necessary to prove serious or severe emotional injury, although the presence of medical evidence will strengthen the case.  If the conduct by the stalker was merely negligent medical evidence of serious or severe emotional injury is required.

There is also a potential claim for invasion of privacy.  To prove invasion of privacy and collect monetary damages, one must prove that the stalker  intentionally intruded, physically or otherwise, upon the solitude or seclusion of the victim or the victim’s private affairs or concerns, and that the intrusion would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.

A person who believes that he or she is being stalked should notify the police. He or she should also keep a notebook of events that are part of the stalking, should retain all documents linked to the stalking activity, and should make and keep pertinent photographs.  

In general, Tennessee law requires that a lawsuit seeking damages for stalking be filed one year after a person is injured by this type of activity.  As you can understand, it is often difficult to define exactly when "injury" occurs, so it is prudent to seek out the advice of an experienced Tennessee injury lawyer as soon as possible to learn (a) whether the activity gives rise to civil liability and (b) what deadline applies for legal action under the facts.

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John Day  has represented victims of crime in civil lawsuits for almost three decades, and is a member of the National Crime Victim Bar Association.  He is board-certified as a civil trial specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy and, in fact, served as President of the organization. He is an elected member of the prestigious American College of Trial Lawyers. His book, "Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law," is used by judges and lawyers across Tennessee to further their understanding of personal injury and wrongful death law in Tennessee. In 2009, Best Lawyers named John "Best Personal Injury Lawyer" for Nashville; he was the first recipient of that award. Best Lawyers also named John as "Best Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Nashville" for 2010. John does not charge for an initial consultation and accepts personal injury and wrongful death cases on a contingent fee basis. You can reach him by telephone at 615.742.4880 or by email by clicking here.