Massachusetts law about harassment, stalking, or intentional infliction of emotional distress

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on harassment, stalking, or intentional infliction of emotional distress law.

Best bet

Abuse and Harassment, Mass. Trial Court 
Explains the difference between MGL ch.209A and ch. 258E as well as how to request an order under each law.

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.209A, s.11: Protection and custody of pets. Applicable to c.258E orders as well as 209A orders
MGL c.258E: Harassment Prevention Orders, effective May, 2010
MGL c. 265, s.37: Violations of Constitutional Rights
MGL c. 265, s.43: Stalking
MGL c. 265, s.43A: Criminal Harassment; Punishment
MGL c. 269, s14A: Annoying Telephone Calls

Federal laws

18 USC 2261A Interstate Stalking
47 USC 223 Obscene or Harassing Telephone Calls in the District of Columbia or in Interstate or Foreign Communications


Jury instructions

Selected case law

Agis v. Howard Johnson Co., 371 Mass. 140 (1976)
Expanded liability to cases without physical harm. Court held that "one who, by extreme and outrageous conduct and without privilege causes severe emotional distress to another is subject to liability for such emotional distress even though no bodily harm may result."

Brown v. Nutter, McClennen and Fish, 45 Mass. App.Ct. 212 (1998)
Legal secretary brought action against law firm and one of its attorneys for emotional distress. Court held that while the Workers' Compensation Act barred her claim against the firm, it did not immunize the attorney from personal liability.

Commonwealth v. Alphas, 430 Mass. 8 (1999)
"In order to convict a defendant under 'following' prong of stalking statute, Commonwealth is required to prove more than two incidents of following."

Commonwealth v. McDonald, 462 Mass. 236 (2012). 
Staring, without more, is not "sinister." Under MGL c. 265, s.43A , "The act of regularly driving on a public street, looking at people in their driveways or on their porches, or at their dogs and gardens, cannot alone support conviction of a wilful and malicious act directed at a specific person."

Commonwealth v. Richards, 426 Mass. 689 (1998). 
Court held MGL chapter 269, section 14A does not apply to allegedly annoying facsimile transmissions.

Commonwealth v. Walters, 472 Mass. 680 (2015)
Stalking and harassment through social media.

Commonwealth v. Wotan, 422 Mass. 740 (1996). 
"Term 'repeatedly' in statute making it a misdemeanor to telephone someone repeatedly solely to harass, annoy or molest requires three or more telephone calls."

George v. Jordan Marsh Co., 359 Mass. 244 (1971)
Court held that "one who, without a privilege to do so, by extreme and outrageous conduct intentionally causes severe emotional distress to another, with bodily harm resulting from such distress, is subject to liability."

O'Brien v. Borowski, 461 Mass. 415 (2012)
G.L. c.258E held to be constitutional. Also, prior to this case, the only review available was to seek relief from a single justice of this court under G. L. c. 211, § 3. "After the date of the issuance of the rescript in this case, all litigants seeking judicial review of harassment prevention orders issued pursuant to G. L. c. 258E are directed to the Appeals Court."

Payton v. Abbott Labs, 386 Mass. 540 (1982)
Great summary of the history of the tort and its required elements

Quinn v. Walsh, 49 Mass.App.Ct. 696 (2000)
"Openly conducting adulterous affair was not sufficiently outrageous conduct to support claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress."

Seney v. Morhy, 467 Mass. 58 (2014)
"This court concluded that appeals from expired civil harassment prevention orders issued pursuant to G. L. c. 258E should not be dismissed as moot where the parties have a continuing interest in the case, including removing any stigma from the name, and any law enforcement records, of the party against whom such an order issued."

Web sources

Last update: November 29, 2016


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