The Georgia Court of Appeals has upheld a summary judgment ruling in a civil lawsuit filed by the former employee of a local dental practice, who accused dentist Dr. Rick Verdin of masturbating in a hallway at the business in September 2007.
Plaintiff Laura Jones filed the lawsuit alleging that in September 2007 she and another dental assistant witnessed Dr. Rick Verdin of Fayette Family Dental Care masturbating, with his pants down, in a hallway at the business. The suit noted that both employees resigned later that day.
Verdin denied the incident ever happened, according to the Appeals Court’s Oct. 21 opinion, but Verdin pled no contest to one count of public indecency in October 2008. Both Jones and the other employee reported the incident to police, according to the court opinion, but the civil lawsuit was filed in July 2009, according to court records.
The lawsuit alleged that the alleged incident was equivalent to an intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The Court of Appeals opinion noted that when State Court Judge Carla W. McMillian granted summary judgment in December 2010, the judge determined that there was a lack of evidence to support Jones’ claim, and a claim filed by her husband, John Jones, for “loss of consortium.”
The Court of Appeals opinion noted that Mrs. Jones “did not seek treatment from any type of doctor or counselor after the incident and suffered no physical ailments other than lack of desire for sexual intercourse with her husband for about a year following the incident.
During a court hearing, Laura Jones testified that the incident was “just something I couldn’t get out of my head. I was shocked,” according to the Court of Appeals opinion.
The opinion notes that John Jones testified that after the alleged incident, his wife “stopped showing affection towards him, experienced ‘bursts of anger’ and ‘wasn’t the same person, just — not the outgoing person, not the social person that she used to be.”
Neither of the Joneses’ accounts was enough to cross the legal threshold for a claim on the intentional infliction of emotional distress, the Court of Appeals determined.
While the Court of Appeals agreed that the alleged incident was “extreme and outrageous behavior … The Joneses’ claims fail because Laura has not demonstrated that she has suffered severe emotional distress.”
The court noted in its opinion that liability arises only when emotional distress is “extreme.”
“The law intervenes only where distress is so severe that no reasonable [person] could be expected to endure it,” the court wrote. “Whether severe emotional distress can be found, based on the evidence presented, is a question for the court to decide.”
The ruling means that neither the dentist nor the dental practice is liable for any damages.