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May 07, 2019

Philly man’s lawsuit over racial slur by Domino’s employee denied by Pa. court

A 34-year-old precedent shot down Philly resident Reynold John's claim of emotional distress

Being the target of a racial slur still isn’t enough to warrant a lawsuit, a Pennsylvania Superior Court judge ruled last week.

Philadelphia resident Reynold John filed an initial lawsuit against Domino’s Pizza in March 2018, after an employee at a Philly-area Domino’s directed a racial slur at him during a July 2017 confrontation.

The confrontation began when John ordered a pizza for delivery and received a burnt pie, according to the ruling. John traveled to the actual Domino’s store and demanded a refund. John took a photo of a Domino’s employee, Hardip Kaur, and Kaur then refused to give John a discount unless John deleted the photo of Kaur because it was against her religion to have her photo taken.

During an ensuing argument, Kaur allegedly directed the n-word at John.

In the initial lawsuit, John claimed negligent training, supervision, and hiring on the part of Domino’s, and said the racial slur caused him emotional distress.

The initial lawsuit was dismissed because of a precedent established in 1985 in Pennsylvania Superior Court, which ruled that “liability for intentional infliction of emotional distress is limited to those cases in which the conduct complained of is extreme and outrageous” after a department store employee directed the n-word at a shopper during an argument:

“The liability clearly does not extend to mere insults, indignities, threats, annoyances, petty oppressions, or other trivialities. The rough edges of our society are still in need of a good deal of filing down, and in the meantime plaintiffs must necessarily be expected and required to be hardened to a certain amount of rough language, and to occasional acts that are definitely inconsiderate and unkind. There is no occasion for the law to intervene in every case where some one’s feelings are hurt. There must still be freedom to express an unflattering opinion, and some safety valve must be left through which irascible tempers may blow off relatively harmless steam.”

John’s appeal of the dismissal claimed that the 1985 ruling was “outdated”, but the Pennsylvania Superior Court — while emphasizing it “by no means condones the derogatory and offensive language” — ultimately denied the appeal.

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