Re-Imagining the Dignitary Torts

89 Pages Posted: 17 Sep 2019

See all articles by Stephen D. Sugarman

Stephen D. Sugarman

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law

Caitlin Boucher


Date Written: September 8, 2019


Tort law is cluttered with different causes of action that permit financial recovery for emotional harms arising from what we call wrongful affronts to human dignity. These include the common law torts of offensive battery, assault, false imprisonment, privacy invasion, defamation, some nuisance claims, and the more broadly labeled actions for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. We don’t need all this clutter. Plus, simplifying our approach to dignitary harm would eliminate unjustified inconsistencies found in this group of torts. This article paves the way for a more coherent approach to the protection of personal dignity.

Keywords: torts, dignitary harm, emotional distress

Suggested Citation

Sugarman, Stephen D. and Boucher, Caitlin, Re-Imagining the Dignitary Torts (September 8, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Stephen D. Sugarman (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law ( email )

215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States
510-642-0130 (Phone)
510-643-2672 (Fax)


Caitlin Boucher

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

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