While visiting her sister, Ruth Garratt attempted to sit in a lawn chair when she tumbled to the floor, fracturing her hip. She alleges Naomi’s five-year-old son, Brian, deliberately pulled the chair out from under her.
A minor will be held liable for battery if he acted intentionally with the knowledge of substantial certainty that his action would bring about harmful or offensive contact to another person.
Ruth Garratt was visiting Naomi Garratt. Ruth alleged that, when she went to sit in a chair on Naomi’s backyard, Naomi’s five-year-old son, Brian, deliberately pulled the chair out from under her. Ruth suffered from a fractured hip and other injuries as a result of the tumble. Ruth’s damages were set at $11,000.
May a child be liable for battery?
Remanded to determine Brian’s knowledge.
Yes, a child may be liable for battery if he had the necessary intent.
The general rule of law is that a minor is liable as any other person would be for committing a tort with force. But before the court can get to that rule of law, it has to reckon whether Brian committed a wrongful act in the first place.
Ruth claims that Brian’s act of moving the chair constituted a battery.
While Brian voluntarily moved the chair, Ruth was unable to prove that Brian knew with substantial certainty that Ruth would attempt to sit down where the chair had been. Mere absence of any intent to injure Ruth, or to prank or embarrass her, or to commit an assault or battery on her would not absolve him from liability if he had such knowledge.