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Garratt v. Dailey

Melissa A. Hale

ProfessorMelissa A. Hale

CaseCast "What you need to know"

CaseCast –  "What you need to know"

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Garratt v. Dailey
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    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.

    Facts. Plaintiff alleged that she came out into the backyard to talk with her sister and that, when she was about to sit down in a wood and canvas lawn chair, five year-old Dailey (Defendant) deliberately pulled the chair out from under her. The trial court accepted found Defendant’s version of the events that he was attempting to move the chair toward Plaintiff to help her in sitting down in the chair. He maintained that, due to his small size and lack of dexterity, he could not get the chair under Plaintiff in time to keep her from falling. Plaintiff was injured in the fall. The trial court ruled for the Defendant. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Washington remanded for a factual determination of Defendant’s intention.

    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.


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