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Tort Law

Battery is an intentional tort. When a person intentionally causes harmful or offensive contact with another person, the act is battery. However, if the plaintiff expressly consented to such an act or gave implied consent by participating in a particular event or situation (e.g., playing sports with the defendant), they are not liable.

  • Intentional act means a person acted with a desire to bring about the contact or they know that the consequence of that contact is substantially likely to occur. 
    • Such an act must result in contact of a harmful or offensive nature. 

A harmful contact of battery is contact causing physical impairment or injury, while an offensive contact of battery is a contact that makes a reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities feel threatened. The offensive contact is usually under the objective test, but if the defendant knows that a plaintiff is a hypersensitive person, but a reasonable person will not feel the contact offensive cannot be a defense. The contact may extend to anything connected to the plaintiff’s person (e.g., a person’s clothing). 

Even if the plaintiff doesn’t suffer actual damages, they can claim nominal damages. Thus, their proof of actual harm is not required in a battery. If a defendant acts with malice (e.g., deliberate disregard of a high probability of harm), the plaintiff may claim punitive damages. For unforeseen consequences, the defendant may still be liable under the “eggshell rule.” For instance, if the defendant punched a plaintiff who happened to have hemophilia and bled to death, he or she was liable for all damages relating to the wrongful death.

Criminal Law 

Criminal law statutes will commonly merge the two terms of "assault" and "battery" into the one crime of "assault.”

Battery is an unlawful application of force directly or indirectly upon another person or their personal belongings, causing bodily injury or offensive contact. The attempt of battery is assault

As a general intent crime, battery doesn’t require a specific mens rea. To defend battery, the defendant can prove that they obtained the plaintiff’s consent or that they acted for the defense of others or in self-defense, even if the defense is only reasonable belief and not fact.

Aggravated battery is battery that involves an aggravating circumstance. Liability and sentencing for aggravated battery is typically harsher than that for battery.

Prima Facie:

The prima facie case for battery contains 4 components:

  1. The defendant acts
  2. The defendant intends to cause contact with the victim
  3. The defendant's contact with the victim is harmful or offensive
  4. The defendant's contact causes the victim to suffer a contact that is harmful or offensive

[Last updated in July of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team