ProfessorMelissa A. Hale
CaseCast™ – "What you need to know"
Brief Fact Summary. Five year-old Brian Dailey (Defendant) visited Naomi Garrett Plaintiff at her sister Ruth’s home. The later contends that as she was about to sit on a lawn chair, Dailey pulled it out from under her causing her injury. The Superior Court for Pierce County (Washington) found in favor of defendant in an action for assault and battery and Plaintiff appealed.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Intentionality is central to the tort of battery, and while a minor who has committed a tort with force is liable as any other would be, a plaintiff must establish that the defendant committed his or her act for the purpose of causing the harmful contact or with substantial certainty that such contact will result.
But our present inquiry must also proceed in the light of the equally well-recognized rule that, after the rendering of final judgment in a case, in the absence of any attack upon the complaint for want of sufficient statement of facts constituting a cause of action, which situation is, of course, presented upon default, the complaint will be most liberally construed as stating a cause of action warranting the granting of the relief prayed for.View Full Point of Law
Issue. In an action for battery, what constitutes willful and unlawful intent?
Held. The Supreme Court for Washington remanded for clarification, with instructions to make definite findings on the issue of whether Defendant knew with substantial certainty that Plaintiff would attempt to sit down where the chair had been. If so, the court was to change the judgment.
Discussion. The concept of “intent” denotes a defendant’s desires to cause the consequences of his actions, or his belief (with substantial certainty) that the results will follow. The distinction to be drawn is not merely whether the defendant intends to commit the act in question, but whether he intends to cause the consequences of his act.