Meeting the intentional tort of battery

The intentional tort of battery is comprised of two elements: (1) the intent to cause or knowledge with substantial certainty that one will cause a harmful or offensive contact, or imminent apprehension of a harmful or offensive contact, and (2) the occurrence of a harmful or offensive contact. Breaking it up, we get four possible ways to commit a battery:

  1. Intending to cause a harmful contact, or imminent apprehension of a harmful contact, and having that contact occur.
  2. Intending to cause an offensive contact, or imminent apprehension of an offensive contact, and having that contact occur.
  3. Knowing with substantial certainty that a harmful contact, or imminent apprehension of a harmful contact, will occur and actually having it occur.
  4. Knowing with substantial certainty that an offensive contact, or imminent apprehension of an offensive contact, will occur and actually having it occur.

Determining if the intent requirement is met is based on an objective, reasonable person test. Would a reasonable person in the same situation know that his actions would cause a harmful or offensive contact? If so, it doesn’t matter what the defendant actually thought, since the jury is clearly unable to read his mind.

The contact requirement is straight forward. For a harmful contact, the jury looks for physical harm done to the plaintiff. For an offensive contact, on the other hand, they go back to the reasonable person standard. Would a reasonable person in the same circumstances find the defendant’s contact offensive? If so, the requirement for battery is met.

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