Recovery Of Money Damages For Assault And Battery

Along with negligence and other types of civil money damage claims, plaintiffs sometimes have the option of suing for assault and battery.  Assault and battery are intentional wrongs.  “Assault” refers to threats, fear, and the like that doesn’t result in actual physical contact while “battery” covers cases in which the defendant has intentionally made contact with the victim in some manner.

Assault and battery are separate claims.  An assault may not always be followed by a battery if the defendant stops the threatening behavior before it progresses to physical contact.  But once there’s unlawful physical contact a battery has occurred.  Thus an act battery is almost always preceded by an act of assault, although the assault may be extremely brief. 

An assault is an act done with the intent to put the victim in fear of physical pain or injury or in fear of physical contact thatwould be insulting or offensive.  The victim must reasonably believe that the act would be immediately carried out.  Threatening words alone do not constitute an assault unless it appears that the person has the ability to carry out the threat at the time the words were spoken.

There are two types of physical contact that may constitute a battery: (1) harmful contact and (2) offensive contact.  “Harmful” contact requires a physical impairment of the condition of the victim’s body or physical pain or illness.  Under the second type of battery, “offensive” contact, a defendant is subject to liability if the defendant acts intending to cause insulting or offensive contact with the victim or the victim’s imminent apprehension of such a contact and offensive contact with the victim directly or indirectly results.  An “offensive contact” battery claim does not require proof of a physical injury.  Bodily contact is offensive if it offends a reasonable sense of personal dignity.

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