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Battery: The Elements of an Intentional Tort

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  • 0:07 Elements of Battery
  • 3:17 Aggravated Battery
  • 4:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kat Kadian-Baumeyer

Kat has a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Management and teaches Business courses.

The tort of battery occurs when a person intentionally inflicts bodily harm to another. While it generally involves some form of offensive contact that results in injury, the tort elements expanded to include contact that does not result in any physical harm.

Elements of Battery

A pretty brunette sits alone at the bar. A lonely gentleman approaches her and asks, 'What brings you here, lovely lady?' Before the woman could utter a word, the man is picked up by his shirt collar and sent sliding across the bar. Sounds like the makings of a crime story.

Well, it is, sort of, anyway. The woman's jealous husband, angry over the flirtation, committed battery upon an innocent man.

Battery occurs when one person inflicts physical harm on another. There are several elements that need be present to prove battery:

  • An act by the person or defendant inflicting harm
  • There was intent to cause harm to the other individual or plaintiff
  • Harmful or offensive conduct occurred as a result

Let's break down each element for better understanding.

The act itself may come in one of two forms of contact: actual physical harm that causes injury, like throwing a person across a room, or where the contact is not so much physical, but is insulting.

Suppose the pretty woman threw her drink in the stranger's face. That can be construed as battery. While no physical harm was actually done except to the suitor's ego, the act remains offensive and insulting.

Intent means that the defendant meant to commit the act and can be either specific or general in nature.

When intent is specific, the defendant performed an act that he knew would cause injury, like punching someone in the gut.

Whereas, general intent broadens the element to mean that the defendant is aware that his actions will result in something happening; the outcome itself may not have been intended.

This is worth explaining. An impish high schooler sneaked behind the desk of his mean spirited English teacher and sat a sharp tack on her chair. When the teacher sat on the pushpin, she jumped from her seat. This set off a chain of events that ended with the teacher on the floor with several broken ribs.

The student did not set out to specifically break his teacher's ribs, but he intentionally placed a tack in the chair knowing that something would happen. This hilarious prank is battery.

The final element of battery is harmful or offensive conduct against another person, and the conduct does not even have to be direct with the plaintiff.

We know that committing an act like pushing another person is battery. However, did you know that even if the act was not meant to cause harm, yet did, it is still considered battery?

To prove this, suppose a beach lifeguard notices a school of ferocious man-eating sharks just off the shore and fails to warn swimmers. Should a swimmer be injured as a result of the lifeguard's failure to act, it can be battery.

You see, a lifeguard has a duty to keep swimmers informed of changes in swimming conditions like rough seas, rip current and especially hungry sharks.

Violence that causes grave harm to another person is even more serious.

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