Garratt v. Dailey – Case Brief Summary

Summary of Garratt v. Dailey, 46 Wash. 2d 197, 279 P.2d 1091 (Wash. 1955).

Facts

Five year old Brian Dailey (D) pulled a chair out from under Ruth Garratt just as she was about to sit causing her to fall and break her hip. Garratt brought suit for personal injuries and alleged that Dailey had acted deliberately. The trial court entered judgment for Dailey and found that he had not intended to injure Garratt. The court nevertheless made a finding of $11,000 in damages in case the judgment was overturned on appeal. Dailey appealed.

Issues

  1. In regards to the intentional tort of battery, is the element of intent satisfied if the defendant knows with a substantial certainty that his act will result in a harmful or offensive contact?
  2. Can a five year old child be liable for an intentional tort?

Holding and Rule

  1. Yes. In regards to the intentional tort of battery, the element of intent is satisfied if the defendant knows with a substantial certainty that his act will result in a harmful or offensive contact.
  2. Yes. A five year old child can be liable for an intentional tort.

A minor is liable just as any other person when he has committed an intentional tort with force.

Elements of the Tort of Battery

Under the Restatement of Torts an actor who commits a direct or indirect act which is the legal cause of a harmful contact with another is liable if: 1) the act is done with the intention of bringing about a harmful or offensive contact or an apprehension thereof to the other or a third person, and 2) the contact is not consented to by the other or the other’s consent thereto is procured by fraud or duress, and 3) the contact is not otherwise privileged.

Intent requires that the act must be done for the purpose of causing the contact or apprehension or with knowledge on the part of the actor that such contact or apprehension is substantially certain to be produced. A battery would be established if a party acts with substantial certainty that a result will occur. The mere absence of any intent to injure, play a prank on, or embarrass the plaintiff, or to commit an assault and battery on her, would not absolve the defendant of liability if in fact he had such knowledge.

If Garratt has proven to the satisfaction of the trial court that Dailey moved the chair while she was in the act of sitting down, his action would patently have been for the purpose or with the intent of causing her bodily contact with the ground, and she would be entitled to a judgment against him for the resulting damages.

Disposition

Remanded for a clarification of findings regarding Dailey’s knowledge in order to determine whether the element of intent is satisfied.

Note

This case is often misspelled as Garratt v. Daley.

See Vosburg v. Putney for another torts case involving the liability of a minor for battery.


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