Torts Class Notes 8/25/03


Last time, we left off on battery.


Intent = substantial certainty that harm will occur


Youíre assume to intent contacts that are substantially certain to occur under those circumstances.


Merely denying that you intended to do something wonít necessarily excuse you.


Intentional torts are often context-based.


A tough issue with battery


Sometimes itís hard to find out whether or not the injured consented to the contact.


ďEgg shellĒ or ďthin skullĒ rule Ė if you intend to cause harm to somebody, and the harm is greater than you expected it to be, youíre responsible for the full consequences of your actions.


Hypothetical Ė the piano teacher and the student.The student ďplays pianoĒ on the teacherís back, and the teacher is severely injured.Here we have a playful, yet slightly offensive touch.But do we expect this type of relationship between a piano teacher and student?Was this a first time occurrence?Letís say the student didnít know the teacher had a back problem.Or letís say the teacher knew she had a problem: isnít she the cheapest cost avoider?Should she have told the student about her condition?The court found that this was battery.


If there is intent to touch without intent, the jury will usually decide based on the context whether or not the contact was meant to be harmful or offensive.


Therefore, Vosburg suggests that the courts will substitute unlawfulness or perhaps inappropriateness of the defendantís conduct within that context for the defendantís intent.Also, keep in mind the extended personality doctrine.


One more hypothetical: Letís say A doesnít like B and A sets up a trap for B (tries to get B to slip on soap).B is injured.Is A liable for battery?What if A says he was playing a practical joke and A thought B would think it was funny?Wouldnít most people just walk around the soap?Does it matter who gets hurt by the soap?No, because of transferred intent.This is a hard case.You couldnít be substantially certain that anyone would be harmed by this.Pulling a chair out from under someone shows intent a lot more strongly than the present case.If A doesnít like B, you have actual intent to cause harm.


False imprisonment


Three elements:


1.     Intent to confine

2.     Bounded area

3.     Awareness of confinement


Big Town is a classic case of false imprisonment.


Parvi v. City of Kingston


Where in the structure of the New York courts is the Court of Appeals of New York?In New York, the Supreme Court is the trial court, the Appellate Court is the middle one, and the Court of Appeals is the high court.


Issue: If Parvi didnít remember his confinement, did he suffer false imprisonment?


You must be conscious to recover damages for false imprisonment under New York law.


Why does Breitel dissent?We donít want to keep the police from being able to do their job.Heís fearful of imposing liability on the police.


The majority feels differently: they feel that this was not an appropriate use of police discretion.They should have taken him into the police station rather than drop him off any old place.


Why is this false imprisonment?Police can go beyond their authority. If the police donít formally arrest him, do they have the right to take him and move him around?Why sue as an intentional tort instead of negligence?You can get punitive damages.


Do you have to be aware of your confinement at the time of trial in order to collect damages?No, but you must have been aware of the confinement at the time it happened.


The protocol nowadays is to arrest people under almost all circumstances.


What if your baby is kidnapped and kept in a box for several hours?Could the baby collect on false imprisonment?What would be a rule that could take this possibility into account?What if the person was asleep the whole time they were confined?How about an adult who has taken a lot of sleeping pills, and then they get kidnapped, moved, and beaten up, all while theyíre sleeping?What if the guy never gets moved?What are the potential shortcomings of this rule?There may be harm later even if you didnít experience harm at the time.


What about the situation of the 16-year-old boy who is taken by a police officer to a hospital other than the one the mother requested?Thereís no false imprisonment here because the mother doesnít have any right to have her son taken to a particular hospital.


Thereís one other method of false imprisonment.


Say I take your suitcase and put it in my car and you go along with me because I have your stuff, even though you donít want to go.Say you get in a car accident.Do you have any cause of action against me?


What differentiates the case of the plaintiff setting off the security alarm and staying at the store from the case of the plaintiff who gave the dealer her car keys?


The law values your property very highly.Itís more important than we might have imagined before. This comes from common law notions about how important land and possessions are to people.


This is called duress of goods.


The shoplifting analogy is closer to the hypothetical above.


Two keys to the car dealer case: the dealer had a right to the car.Also, is it really believable that she had no other way to get home?For example, could she have called someone?Could she have taken a bus?Could she have called a cab?Does it make a difference whether you do something voluntarily as opposed to against your will?


Hardy v. LaBelleís


What was Ms. Hardyís big mistake?She agreed to take the lie detector test and says that she would have stated to clarify the situation.She also never asked to leave.Her willingness to cooperate undermines any threat.Moral persuasion does not lead to false imprisonment.Does it make a difference that there was a uniformed police officer present?


If Hardy had asked to leave or made a move to leave and had been prevented from doing so, then false imprisonment may lie.


Only force or threats of force constitute false imprisonment.


Methods of Confinement


        Threats of physical force

        Actual force

        Duress of goods

        Threats to your family members


Enright v. Groves


Mrs. Enright was sitting in a car.Groves found a dog running around and determined that it belonged to Mrs. Enright.Groves asked for her license, but she didnít give it to her.Groves arrested her, seemingly for not producing her driverís license.


Courts rarely reach verdicts of false imprisonment against police officers.There is a pretty heavy presumption that police officers have legal justification to make arrests.


Mrs. Enright was convicted of violating the dog leash ordinance.Grovesís employer argued that conviction of a crime is a complete defense of a false imprisonment claim.The problem is that the officer didnít arrest Mrs. Enright for the dog leash violation, but rather for the failure to produce the driverís license.Whatís the difference between this and Hardy?The police officer used force to arrest her.This is actual force, not moral persuasion.


Does it matter if he touches her?Should Mrs. Graves have had to protest her arrest in order for him to be liable?We donít want people to resist arrest as a matter of policy.Weíd rather have people go quietly.


What about ďcitizenís arrestsĒ?Is it lawful to conduct a citizenís arrest under any circumstances?What if the person who gets arrested did commit the crime? What if the citizen thinks you did something but theyíre wrong?A police officer, who has probable cause to arrest you but is shown later to be wrong, will not be liable.Would it be different for a private citizen?What about if the police officer is off-duty?


What if the police officer did not have a reasonable suspicion?


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