Debbie, aged sixteen, lives at home with her mother, Jennifer, in a state where the age of majority is eighteen. Jennifer is aware that Debbie has recently exhibited a sometimes violent and delusionary nature diagnosed as schizophrenia, and has attacked persons in the neighborhood. Medication that can control Debbie’s behavior has been prescribed, but without Jennifer’s knowledge Debbie has stopped taking it.
A week after Debbie stopped taking her medication, she approached a neighbor, Mark, as he walked along the sidewalk fronting Jennifer’s home. When she was face to face with Mark, Debbie, without provocation, gestured threateningly and screamed, “I know you’re out to get me and I’m going to get you first,” and then strode away.
Two days later, after Debbie confronted Mark, Debbie saw him raking leaves which had fallen into the street fronting their adjoining homes. Debbie got on her bike and rode it as rapidly as she could directly at Mark. Although Debbie swerved away from Mark at the last moment, Mark reacted by diving to one side. He struck his head on the curb and suffered a severe concussion and facial injuries.
Mark has sued Debbie for assault and battery. What result?
Model answer for Assignment #3
Mark v. Debbie
1. Debbie Approaching Mark
An assault is an intentional placing of another in reasonable apprehension of an imminent harmful or offensive touching.
Debbie approached her neighbor Mark. When face to face and without provocation Debbie gestured threateningly and screamed at Mark, “I know you are out to get me and I am going to get you first.” Based on Debbie’s words she acted with a substantial certainty to scare Mark. Therefore, her act was intentional.
Debbie will contend that she has been diagnosed as schizophrenia and she does not have the requisite intent to commit an intentional tort. Further, she is only sixteen years old and is considered a minor, because the age of majority in her state is eighteen. Therefore, she could not form the requisite intent necessary to commit an assault.
Mark will counter that the courts today have held that schizophrenias can form the required intent necessary for an intentional act. Further, the courts have held that a minor can also form the requisite intent. Therefore, Debbie’s act was intentional.
Debbie screamed at Mark “I know you’re out to get me and I’m going to get you first.” Mark will argue Debbie’s words put him in reasonable apprehension of an imminent harmful touching. Debbie will counter her words “I’m going to get you first” and then strode away showed that the apprehension was not imminent. Further, words alone are generally not enough to constitute an imminent apprehension.
Therefore, Debbie will not be liable to Mark for assault.
Assault – Riding the bike at Mark
Debbie saw Mark raking leaves in front of their adjoining homes. Debbie got on her bike and rode as rapidly as she could directly at Mark. Debbie acted with a desired result to create imminent fear in Mark. Debbie will argue that she has been diagnosed as a schizophrenia and is also a minor. However, as discussed supra she can form the required intent. Therefore, her conduct was intentional.
Although Debbie swerved away from Mark at the last moment, Mark reacted by diving to one side. Mark struck his head on the curb and suffered a severe concussion and facial injuries. By Debbie riding her bike directly at Mark, she created a reasonable apprehension of an imminent harmful touching.
Therefore, Debbie will be liable to Mark for assault.
General damages are damages that naturally flow from the tort. General damages allow recovery of compensation for pain and suffering.
In an attempt to avoid being struck by Debbie, Mark dove to one side, struck his head on the curb and suffered a severe concussion and facial injuries. He should recover for these damages which reasonable and naturally flowfrom Debbie’s tortious conduct. Mark will be able to recover for his pain and suffering.
Thus, Mark will be entitled to general damages.
Special damages must be foreseeable, reasonable in amount and not too remote. Special damages must be specifically pleaded and proved in order to recover.
Mark will receive damages for his medical expenses and lost wages resulting from Debbie’s act. It is foreseeable and reasonable based on Debbie’s conduct that Mark would require medical treatment and suffer lost wages while recovering from his injuries. Since the damages would relate to the conduct of Debbie, the damages are not too remote.
Therefore, Mark is entitled to special damages.
Punitive damages may be awarded where there was intent to injure or harm plaintiff.
As discussed supra, since Debbie committed an assault against Mark, she acted with the intent to cause injury to Mark.
Therefore, the court can award punitive damages from Debbie’s conduct.
Battery is the intentional, harmful or offensive touching of another.
Debbie’s conduct of riding her bike directly at Mark and swerved away at the last moment shows she was substantially certain to cause Mark to react. Thus, Debbie’s actions were intentional. Debbie will argue she only intended to scare Mark and not harm him. As such, Debbie lacked the requisite intent to harm Mark.
However, under the transferred intent doctrine a Defendant’s wrongful intent can be transferred from the intended tort to the committed tort.
Debbie rode her bike as rapidly as she could toward Mark. Since Debbie intended to cause apprehension to Mark, she will be liable for the resulting harm to Mark since her wrongful intent can be transferred from the assault to the battery.
Further, Mark dove to one side and struck his head on the curb and suffered a severe concussion and facial injuries. Thus, harmful touching of another.
Under the transferred intent doctrine, Debbie may be liable for battery.
Defined and discussed supra.
Defined and discussed supra.
Defined and discussed supra.