Are verbal and mental abuse eligible for pain and suffering?

by Mary
(Charlotte, NC)

The following was done to my adult 24 yr old daughter, who has battled depression and anxiety for several years. She also contemplated suicide and was hospitalized a year ago. All of this is known by her close friends.

Here is what happened...

My daughter traveled last weekend with a close friend, who has a Masters in Psychology. Under the influence of alcohol, her friend decided to abandon my daughter leaving her alone without transportation in a small town unfamiliar to her.

Her "friend" went on to tell her that she was a joke of a human and a waste of space and wished she would just kill herself and put everyone of out of their misery of dealing with her. She went on to laugh at her and taunt her that even if she found a way back to her friend's house she would never get passed the security system to get her car out of the garage.

My daughter was stuck no matter what she did. Distraught and panicking, my daughter reached out to me and another friend to help her get home. We were both 2 to 3 hours away. She continued to say she was no better than garbage dumped on the side of the road, just a waste of space and started contemplating suicide.

Fortunately, I learned that friends of mine were visiting the area. They were able to locate her and provide her a safe place for the evening. I picked her up in the morning. I could see her mental health had deteriorated significantly. On the drive back, she didn't talk much but kept telling me she felt like garbage dumped on the road, worthless and unwanted.

The actions of her "friend" have undoubtedly compounded her mental illness. We have an appointment with her psychiatrist to determine next steps for treatment. I doubt we have a pain/suffering case but thought I would ask. Would this qualify as mental abuse? Could anything be done in a situation like this? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Are verbal and mental abuse eligible for pain and suffering?":

Mary (Charlotte, NC):

From the facts you present, the friend's words and actions were indeed cruel. However, such cruelty, while morally wrong, is not actionable. This means there does not appear to be a legal basis upon which your daughter can seek compensation from her friend for mental cruelty.

Moreover, while your daughter has a right to full possession of her car, she does not have an absolute legal right to take her car from her friend's property. Instead, to gain access to her car your daughter will first have to obtain permission to enter her friend's garage. That access can only be obtained with the express permission of the friend.

However, if your daughter's friend refuses to allow your daughter to gain access to her car, your daughter can file a Replevin Action lawsuit against her friend.

In a Replevin Action, a person may file a lawsuit against the person who is in control of, but not necessarily the rightful owner of, certain property. The lawsuit petitions a court to award the plaintiff, for example your daughter, her rightful property.

In addition, in an effort to recover her car, you daughter can consider filing a small claims lawsuit against her friend. That lawsuit can be based on Recovery of Personal Property. However, the North Carolina Small Claims Court's jurisdiction is up to $5,000.

This means if your daughter's car is worth more than $5,000, filing a lawsuit in small claims court would not be allowed. For more information on filing a lawsuit to Recover Personal Property in the State of North Carolina go to:

North Carolina Legal Aid - Self Help Library, Small Claims Court

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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