from Jefferson Circuit Court (CV-17-900522)
Wilson, the plaintiff below, appeals from the dismissal of
her complaint seeking damages against the defendants,
University of Alabama Health Services Foundation, P.C.
("UAHSF"); Carla Falkson, M.D.; Tina Wood, M.D.;
Ravi Kumar Paluri, M.D.; and Mollie DeShazo, M.D., based on
the tort of outrage. We reverse and remand.
and Procedural History
February 2017, Wilson sued UAHSF and its employees, Dr.
Falkson, Dr. Wood, Dr. Paluri, and Dr. DeShazo (hereinafter
referred to collectively as "the doctors"), in the
Jefferson Circuit Court. Wilson's complaint alleged that,
in late 2011, her elderly mother, Elizabeth Monk Wilson
("Elizabeth"), was diagnosed with and underwent
treatment for colon cancer. According to Wilson, before the
onset of Elizabeth's illness, Elizabeth had executed an
advanced health-care directive that "instruct[ed] ...
caregivers to use all available means to preserve
[Elizabeth's] life" and further named Wilson as
Elizabeth's health-care proxy "in the event
[Elizabeth] became 'too sick to speak for'
subsequently suffered a recurrence of her cancer. In August
2015, she was admitted to the University of Alabama at
Birmingham Hospital, a facility operated by UAHSF. In her
complaint, Wilson alleged that, while Elizabeth was in the
hospital, she was treated by the doctors. She further alleged
that the doctors made numerous and repeated tactless comments
to Elizabeth and Wilson about Elizabeth's condition and
her impending death, and to the effect that she was wasting
resources by being in the hospital instead of dying at home.
The complaint provides a long, extremely detailed discussion
of countless alleged egregious statements made to Elizabeth
and Wilson and numerous altercations between Wilson and
Elizabeth, on the one hand, and the doctors, on the other. We
see no need to repeat those allegations here. The complaint
further details the alleged physical and mental distress
experienced by both Elizabeth and Wilson in response to the
doctors' alleged conduct.
on the foregoing, Wilson's complaint alleged a single
claim for damages "for the tort of outrage, and for the
tort of intentional infliction of emotional
distress" and sought compensatory and punitive
damages. Wilson sought to hold UAHSF vicariously liable for
the alleged conduct of the doctors, which conduct, she
alleged, occurred within the line and scope of the
doctors' employment with UAHSF.
response, UAHSF and the doctors jointly moved to dismiss
Wilson's complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Ala. R.
Civ. P. More specifically, in addition to denying that the
conduct Wilson attributed to them had ever occurred, they
argued that Alabama law recognizes the tort of outrage only
in certain narrowly defined circumstances not applicable in
the instant case. See Callens v. Jefferson Cty. Nursing
Home, 769 So.2d 273, 281 (Ala. 2000). They further
argued that this Court has repeatedly rejected the expansion
of the tort of outrage to encompass "alleged extreme
behavior in the healthcare context." See, e.g.,
Grantham v. Vanderzyl, 802 So.2d 1077 (Ala. 2001);
Callens, supra; and Gallups v.
Cotter, 534 So.2d 585, 588 (Ala. 1988). Thus,
according to UAHSF and the doctors, Wilson's claim was
unsupported by Alabama law and represented an "attempt
to expand the scope of [the] tort" and, therefore,
failed to state a claim as a matter of law.
trial court dismissed the action, stating:
"In considering the defendants' motion, the court
regards the allegations in the complaint as true. Those
allegations paint a picture of egregious misconduct. The
Alabama Supreme Court, however, has made clear that the tort
of intentional infliction of emotional distress, or outrage,
is limited to three situations, none of which applies here.
It will be up to the Supreme Court to decide whether to
expand that tort's applicability to the circumstances
"'In Nance v. Matthews, 622 So.2d 297 (Ala.
1993), this Court stated the standard of review applicable to
a ruling on a motion to dismiss:
"'"On appeal, a dismissal is not entitled to a
presumption of correctness. The appropriate standard of
review under Rule 12(b)(6)[, Ala. R. Civ. P., ] is whether,
when the allegations of the complaint are viewed most
strongly in the pleader's favor, it appears that the
pleader could prove any set of circumstances that would
entitle [it] to relief. In making this determination, this
Court does not consider whether the plaintiff will ultimately
prevail, but only whether [it] may possibly prevail. We note
that a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal is proper only when it appears