Steven Miner and Kathryn Garrity divorced, messily, in 1995. Their adult children brought a claim against their mother, seeking damages for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress during the time after the divorce.

The Illinois trial court dismissed the ‘bad mothering’ claim, which the state’s appellate court upheld: Miner v Garrity (Ill App (1st), 29 July 2011) [Link available here].

Both courts rejected the idea that Garrity’s ‘use of the psychological influence of a parent over the behavior of her offspring’ had been so ‘extreme and outrageous’ as to found a complaint for infliction of emotional distress. The appeal court suggested that while Garrity may not have been very nice in showing favouritism between siblings and in making remarks that were ‘unpleasant and perhaps insensitive’, there was nothing so ‘abusive and atrocious’ as to amount to the intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Adducing the fact that their mother’s birthday cards to them did not include cash or a cheque was probably not a winner strategy on the plaintiffs’ part; having their father as one of their counsel might also have struck the wrong tone.