In February 2004, Katharine Almy, hereinafter the plaintiff, filed a motion for judgment against John Grisham, Jr. et al, hereinafter the defendants, alleging claims of infliction of intentional emotional distress and conspiracy to inflict emotional distress in response to a series of events which took place 1996 and 1999.

In sum, the events that transpired to prompt the litigation are as follows: defendant’s (Alan Swanson) wife and defendant Grisham received a series of hand-written letters that made various accusations including marital infidelity. Defendants than decided to learn the source of the letters, already believing the plaintiff had been the author.

Defendants acquired a handwriting sample of the plaintiff’s through school administration records at her child’s school. They then paid handwriting experts David Leibman and Cina Wong, also defendants, to compare the handwriting on the forms to the letters.

Upon being told the handwriting was comparatively similar, the defendants contacted an attorney and explained the situation. The attorney then contacted the commonwealth’s attorney, who contacted the local police to investigate the matter for criminal impropriety. In August of 1998 Detective Thomas Grimes confronted the plaintiff at her residence in reference to the letters. Upon the plaintiff’s denial of writing the letters, Grimes proceeded to direct her to cease send other letters to the defendants.

Almy then became upset and alleged to have begun to suffer from nervousness, sleeplessness, stress, and an inability to concentrate. In November of 1998, the plaintiff sought treatment for her emotional distress; whereby the attending physician concluded Almy suffered from “major depressive disorder.”

The plaintiff’s condition continued to improve through August of 1999, at which time she become aware that the defendants had obtained the handwriting samples from her child’s confidential administrative records. Almy then suffered a setback and relapsed into a depressive state. Upon filing her motion for judgment in February 2004, the defendants responded accordingly with demurrers asserting that the plaintiff had failed to state a cause of action in the motion.

Procedural History

This appeal arises from the Circuit Court of Albemarle County, Virginia. There Judge Designate William R. Shelton sustained the defendant’s aforementioned demurrers; thereby denying the plaintiff’s motion for judgment against the defendants. Plaintiff appealed in light of the unfavorable ruling.


(1)  Did the Circuit Court err in sustaining defendant’s demurrers?

(2)  Did the plaintiff sufficiently allege elements of intentional infliction of emotional distress against the defendants?

(3)  Did the plaintiff sufficiently allege that the handwriting experts recklessly engaged in conduct that was intended to harm her?

(4)  Did the plaintiff properly allege conspiracy to inflict severe emotional distress?


(1)  Plaintiff sufficiently alleged elements of intentional infliction of emotional distress; thereby placing the court in error of denying the demurrers.

(2)  Plaintiff failed to sufficiently allege intentional or reckless conduct on the part of the handwriting experts.

(3)  Plaintiff cannot assert a cause of action for civil conspiracy to inflict severe emotional distress.