Hughes v. Pair, 46 Cal. 4th 1035 (2009)

Suzan Hughes, the third wife of Herbalife founder Mark Hughes, sued Christopher Pair, one of the three trustees of Mark’s estate, for sexual harassment under Civil Code § 51.9 (which prohibits sexual harassment in certain business, service and professional relationships) and for intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Although this case does not involve an employment relationship, the California Supreme Court held that the Legislature intended Section 51.9 to be applied in a fashion consistent with the FEHA and Title VII.) The Court affirmed summary judgment in favor of Pair after concluding that Hughes had failed to establish either quid pro quo sexual harassment or conduct that was so severe or pervasive as to constitute sexual harassment. As for the latter form of harassment, the Court noted that Pair had not physically touched Hughes and that Pair’s “vulgar and highly offensive” comments to Hughes were ambiguous and part of an isolated incident. Similarly, the Court held that Pair’s actions were not sufficiently extreme or outrageous and Hughes’s alleged emotional injuries were not severe enough to result in liability for intentional infliction of emotional distress.