Battery – Law of Tort

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Battery

A battery as the term defines is the intentional touching of or application of force to the body of another person or anything related to them, in a harmful or offensive manner without the consent of the person. Unlike assault, where mere threatening of a person leads to the filing of the suit, the battery is the actual contact in an offensive manner without the consent of the person. Many times, the battery is often preceded by the assault that is why the term is often used in combined form i.e. assault and battery.

Therefore a person may be made liable under the battery, where he intentionally commits an act in order to either cause a harm or offensive contact or to cause imminent apprehension of such contact which leads to harmful offensive contact with the other person. Like for example, wherein the heated aggressive fight between X and Y, X punches on Y’s face then under such circumstances, X has committed the offense of battery.

As in our daily life, it is practically impossible for one to avoid physical touch, therefore there is presumed that till a certain amount there is consent given for physical touch. Like a person travelling in a crowded bus or two friends in a friendly manner hit each other. Then in those circumstances, there is an offense for battery.

The battery is a kind of trespass to the person, and therefore it can be either criminal offense or civil offense or both.

Civil Battery (Tort)

The battery is considered as civil wrong when, it is done with intent but the wrongdoer or perpetrator does not have any specific injury to cause it to someone, but he had the knowledge about the fact that his act would certainly lead to injury to someone. As because the battery is an intentional tort, but there is no any specific criminal intent is involved, therefore, the victim can file the suit under civil court against the perpetrator for monetary damages.

Example, when X for his shooting practice, shoots at a tree planted in an open garden. And if while practicing the shot of gun hits Y who was roaming their then under such circumstances X can be liable for Civil Battery, as he can rightly presume that bullet so fired from his gun would hit the other if practiced in open garden.

Criminal Battery (Criminal)

Criminal battery differs slightly from that of the civil battery. As in criminal battery, there is involvement of intention to kill the other person, hence in criminal battery intension plays the great role. Under criminal battery punishment so granted is for imprisonment or fine or both depending upon case to case.

Example, where person X with the intention of killing Y mixes poisonous material in his food. Then even if that food is eaten by someone else, then also X would be liable for a criminal offense.

Essential:

For proving the offense of Battery it is necessary that:-

  • Use of Force

For constituting battery against any person it is necessary that the there should be the use of force. Even if the force used is not of that much harmful but still, the force was used and therefore battery was committed. Although there are also cases that where there is no direct injury is being caused by physical touch but the force used is through indirect way i.e. without any bodily contact with the aggressor. Like through use of the stick, bullet, or by spitting on man’s face[1], pulling of chair etc. are some examples. If the person gets physical injury due to the infliction of heat, light odour etc. then also it can be termed as battery[2].

However mere passive obstruction can’t be an offense of battery. Like in the case of Innes vs. Wylie[3] the policeman wrongfully restrains a person from entering a club. It was held that if the policeman was entirely passive like a door or a wall put to prevent someone from entering the premises, there was no battery. 

  • Without Lawful Justification

For the purpose of proving battery, it is always necessary that the force so used should be unlawful and without any justification. Therefore if for example, if two persons met each other on road and thereby passed silently by having some physical contact then there can’t be the offense of battery. But if they pass each other, and while crossing one of them started fighting with other, then there is an offense committed of battery by the person who has started the fight.

However, harm caused by accident and without intention is not actionable. Like in the case of Stanley vs. Powell[4] the defendant and plaintiff both were from the shooting party. While the defendant fired at a pheasant the pellet from his gun revered back from a tree and accidentally wounded the plaintiff. It was held that the defendant was not held liable, as the act did was neither intentional nor negligently done.

Defenses

To run out of civil or criminal liability, the defendant uses certain defence to save himself or her self from any obligation due to the wrongful action so happened. As battery can sometimes be the simple case or sometimes complex, the defences so available vary according to cases. Some of them are:

  • Self Defence

Self-defence refers to protecting oneself from the unlawful force used by the other party. Under this, the defendant won’t be held liable for the wrong of the battery over the other person. It is a justified defence as the defendant was safeguarding himself from the wrongful force so caused by the plaintiff. However, it is necessary for the defendant to prove that there was no provocation from his side and also there was no other way to save himself. 

Like, A and B were having rivalries with other. All of the sudden when both crossed each other, A started to shout and fight with B, B in his self-defence uses the stick lying nearby to hit him and ran away. Then B won’t be held liable for committing battery as the use of force was justified and was used in self-defence.

  • Defence of Others

It is also the same kind of defence as that of self-defence, but here the force is used to save another person who is in trouble because of wrongful force used by plaintiff, on the other person.

  • Defence of Property

When the defendant uses force to safeguard his property or other then, under those circumstances, the force used would be considered valid, provided that such use of force should be reasonable.

Like in the case of, Bird vs. Holbrook[5]  the defendant put a spring gun on his land to save his property. But that safeguard system was fixed without any notice. The trespasser passing thereby was seriously injured, due to this. It was held that the plaintiff was liable to be compensated, as the force used was excessive and the defendant has committed battery.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • What is the battery in law?

The battery in law can be defined as the use of force against one person causing him harm or injury without any lawful justification. However, it is necessary that such harm or injury can be caused through direct or indirect means resulting in physical or mental injury to the other person. Examplepunching someone without any justification or shooting someone without any justification resulting in physical injury to the person can constitute the offense of battery. 

  • What is battery law in the US?

Battery law in the US can be the simple or criminal battery. It can be defined as the force against another person resulting in some harm or injury due to the harmful or offensive contact including sexual contact with him. At common law, the simple law includes those crimes which are less serious than a felony. However it is necessary that for battery there has been an unlawful use of force must be used, and there should be some injury either bodily or offensive touch should be present to constitute battery.

  • Difference between assault and battery?

Assault and battery belong to the same category of trespass to the person. Which states that whoever wrongfully causes any injury to another regardless it being mental or physical, or induces any fear of state in mind will be liable for committing trespass to the person.

Assault and battery differ from each other. As in assault, there is the apprehension of one’s mind in fear of infliction of the battery over him would lead to assault, whereas battery refers to the application of force intentionally done without any lawful justification, which leads injury to another person.


[References]

[1] R. v.Cotesworth, 6 Mod. 172.

[2] Winfield, Tort, 7th ed., 150.

[3] (1844) 1 C & K 257.

[4] (1891) 1 Q.B. 86.

[5] (1823) 4 Bing. 628; 130 E.R. 91.

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