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Assault and Battery Under the Law of Tort

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The early case of Cole v Turner (1704) 87 ER 907 established that any touching, however slight, done in anger will amount to a battery (Cole v Turner (1704)). In other words, the battery is comprised of two essential elements; contact and intention. The intention, however, is not necessarily an intention to cause specific harm, just the intention to cause contact which is not expected in the ordinary occurrences of daily life (Collins v Wilcock [1984] 3 All ER 374). In F v West Berkshire Health Authority [1989] 2 All ER 545 Lord Goff explained, however, that any deliberate physical contact with another that exceeds everyday nuances without any lawful excuse was enough to substantiate a claim in the tort of battery.

There is no doubt that Paul hitting Mick with the vodka exceeds the typical contact that one might expect to experience in everyday conduct. The question is, however, whether or not Paul had a lawful excuse. Only if there is no lawful excuse can Mick substantiate a claim against Paul for the battery? It is a firmly established tenet of law that an individual in fear of immediate harm may use such force as is reasonable for defending his person, property or in defense of another.

Whether or not the force used in the circumstances is reasonable force will be weighed against the specific facts of the case. Given the exchange between Paul and Mick 20 minutes earlier, the fact that Paul was drinking, it is entirely possible that Paul made an honest mistake about the weapon in Mick’ s possession. Even if Paul was honestly mistaken as to the degree of danger he was in, evidence of his mistaken belief will be admitted as a defense to trespass against the person (Beckford v R [1988] AC 130).

When Mick aimed at Dr. George and hit Stella instead, Stella may substantiate a claim in battery on the basis of transferred intent. While transferred intent is firmly established n the crime of battery it is not so firmly established in the tort of battery although there is the authority for it in tort. In Scott v Shepherd (17730 96 ER 525 the defendant threw a lit firecracker into a market place where it was thrown away by another person hitting the plaintiff.

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