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Womack v. Eldridge

Supreme Court of Virginia
210 S.E.2d 145 (1974)


Facts

Eldridge (defendant) was employed by an attorney for Seifert, a man charged with sexually molesting two boys. Eldridge, pretending to be a reporter writing an unrelated article, convinced Womack (plaintiff) to allow Eldridge to take his picture. Eldridge gave Womack’s photo to Seifert’s attorney, who showed it to the two boys involved in Seifert’s case. The two boys told Seifert’s attorney that the man in the picture, who did not resemble Seifert, was not the man who had molested them. In response to questions about the photo from the state’s attorney, Eldridge testified at a preliminary hearing, giving Womack’s name and address. At the request of the state’s attorney, Womack was brought into court to testify about having provided his picture. Womack testified that had not molested the children and that he did not know anything about the charges against Seifert. Subsequently, police officers questioned Womack several times, he was summoned to appear as a witness at the grand jury, and was summoned to appear several times at Siefert’s various trial dates. Womack sued Eldridge, claiming that he suffered emotional distress as a result of Eldridge’s willful, malicious, and deceitful conduct. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Womack. The trial court set aside the verdict, finding that Womack could not recover for emotional distress absent physical injury. Womack appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (I’Anson, C.J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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