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Snyder v. Turk

    Brief Fact Summary. Snyder (P) who was a scrub nurse working with Dr. Turk (D) brought an action for battery against the doctor, on the ground that he had grabbed and shouted at her during a surgery.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Contact which breaks the reasonable standards of personal dignity may make the one performing the contact liable for battery.

    Facts. Dr. Turk (D) was performing a gall-bladder surgery and Snyder (P) was his scrub nurse. The surgeon was growing more frustrated all the time with the difficulty and unexpected complications of the procedure, and also with the alleged errors Snyder was making. Eventually, when the nurse handed him the wrong instrument, he grabbed her shoulder, forced her face toward the abdominal opening, and reproved her verbally. She filed a suit for damages alleging that the doctor had battered her. The trial court instructed the jury to decide in favor of Turk. Snyder appealed.

    Issue. If an individual commits an act offending another person’s reasonable sense of personal dignity, is he rendering himself liable to action for battery?

    Held. (Wilson, J.) Yes. If a person’s sense of personal dignity is offended by another’s contact, the person making the contact is liable for battery. In this case it is reasonable to conclude that the contact made by Turk was intentionally offensive. The verdict is reversed.

    Dissent. N/A

    Concurrence. N/A

    Discussion. The analysis of what is offensive contact to a reasonable mind is far from being objective. When the criterion of offensiveness to personal dignity is also added, the standard becomes even less clear. In this case, another person or the same person in another context might not have considered the doctor’s conduct threatening or offensive, but the plaintiff did.


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