Brief Fact Summary.
Five year old defendant Brian Dailey moved the chair when the plaintiff Ruth Garrett was trying to sit on the chair. As a result, Garrett fell to the ground and sustained serious injuries.
Plaintiff sued for assault and battery.
Plaintiff claimed that defendant moved the chair deliberately, but defendant claimed that he was trying to help plaintiff to sit properly but he was unable to get the chair under plaintiff in time due to his small size.
Trial court found in favor of defendant. Plaintiff now appeals.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
The required intent in battery is the realization/knowledge to a substantial certainty, the contact or apprehension will happen.
It stated that the test was whether the boy, when he moved the chair, knew with substantial certainty that the plaintiff would attempt to sit down where the chair had been.View Full Point of Law
In July, 1951, Naomi Garrett, visited her sister, Ruth Garrett, the plaintiff. Also visiting the home at the time was five year old Brian Dailey, the defendant.
The 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 lawn chair, the defendant deliberately moved the chair away from her. The plaintiff fell to the ground and received a fracture of her hip and other serious injuries.
Plaintiff sued the boy for assault and battery.
The defendant alleged that he moved the chair when he discovered the plaintiff about to sit down at the place where the lawn chair had formerly been, at which time he nearly got up from the chair and attempted to move it toward the plaintiffs to aid her in sitting down in the chair, but due to defendant’s small size and lack of dexterity, he was unable to get the lawn chair under plaintiff in time.
The trial court accepted the defendant’s version of the events and entered a judgment in favor of the defendant. The trial court found that the defendant “did not have any wilful or unlawful purpose in doing so; that he did not have any intent to injure the plaintiff, or any intent to bring about any unauthorized or offensive contact with her person or any objects appurtenant thereto; that the circumstances which immediately preceded the fall of the plaintiff established that the defendant, Brian Dailey, did not have purpose, intent or design to perform a prank or to effect an assault and battery upon the person of the plaintiff.” County in Washington State found in favor of the defendant in an action for assault and battery.
Plaintiff now appeals.
What is the requisite intent for a tortuous battery to occur?
The court concluded that the required intent for battery is the realization/knowledge to a substantial certainty, the contact or apprehension will happen.
As trial court’s analysis regarding intent is imprecise, the case was remanded for clarification with instructions to make definite findings on the issue of whether defendant knew with substantial certainty that the plaintiff would attempt to sit down where the chair had been, and to change the judgment if the findings warrant it.
The Supreme Court of Washington first clarified that it is well established when a minor has committed a tort with force, he is liable to be proceeded against as any other person would be.
The Court next studied the restatement for elements of battery. The rule that determines liability for battery is given in1 Restatement, Torts, 29, § 13, as: “An act which, directly or indirectly, is the legal cause of a harmful contact with another’s person makes the actor liable to the other, if
The Court referred to the comment on clause (a) of the Restatement:“Character of actor’s intention. In order that an act may be done with the intention of bringing about a harmful or offensive contact or an apprehension thereof to a particular person, either the other or a third person, the act must be done for the purpose of causing the contact or apprehension or with knowledge on the part of the actor that such contact or apprehension is substantially certain to be produced.”
The Court concluded that the required intent for battery is the realization/knowledge to a substantial certainty, the contact or apprehension will happen. Specific to this case, a battery would be established, if when defendant moved the chair, he knew with substantial certainty that the plaintiff would attempt to sit down where the chair had been.
The Court further clarified that the trial court’s finding of the mere absence of defendant’s intent to injure the plaintiff or to play a prank, or to commit an assault and battery on the plaintiff, would not absolve him from liability, if he in fact has such knowledge with a substantial certainty.