Torts Practice Question 1

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Torts: Intentional Torts

A doctor and a businessman both walked into a busy coffee shop at the same time. The coffee shop is located next to the hospital where the doctor works and is frequented by many of the doctors who work there. Only one table in the shop was unoccupied. Both men approached the table; however, the doctor was deeply focused on reading a patient file and did not see the businessman. The doctor cut right in front of the businessman and sat down at the table first. The businessman got so angry that he started swinging a rolled-up newspaper back and forth at the doctor and yelling. The doctor was so absorbed in reading his file that he did not see the businessman’s gesture. The businessman then released the paper from his grip and hurled it towards the doctor. The paper struck the doctor in the eye.

In an action against the businessman, what count(s) will the doctor prevail on?

A) Assault.

B) Battery.

C) Assault and battery.

D) Neither assault nor battery.

Answer and Explanation

B is correct. A battery is an act by the defendant which brings about harmful or offensive contact to the plaintiff’s person. A defendant can be liable for both direct and indirect contact with the plaintiff’s person, as long as he originally set in motion the force which brings about the harmful or offensive contact. In this case, even though the businessman did not physically strike the doctor himself, he set the paper in motion which did have contact with the doctor. The businessman has therefore committed a battery against the doctor.

A and C are incorrect. The businessman did not commit an assault. Assault is an act by the defendant that creates a reasonable apprehension of fear in the plaintiff of immediate harmful or offensive contact with the plaintiff’s person. The defendant must have intended to bring about the apprehension, and the plaintiff must have been aware of the threat. Although the businessman did swing the newspaper back and forth at the doctor in a threating way while also yelling, the doctor was unaware. Therefore, the doctor did not have an apprehension of imminent harmful or offensive contact, which is a necessary element for assault.

D is incorrect. In this case, the businessman did commit a battery.

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