Masters v. Becker – Case Brief Summary
Summary of Masters v. Becker, 22 A.D.2d 118, 254 N.Y.S.2d 633 (2d Dept. 1964).
Six year old Susan Masters (P) was playing with nine year old Claudia Becker (D) and Claudia’s sister on a truck in an empty lot. Masters was standing on a narrow ledge on the outside of the truck. Becker told or urged Masters to get off and she began to cry and refused, saying that she was frightened. Becker pried Masters’ fingers off the tailgate and she fell, sustaining severe injuries.
Masters brought suit for assault (i.e. common law battery). Becker testified that she had acted because she wanted a turn playing on the ledge. The trial court instructed the jury that, in order to recover, Masters had to establish that Becker intended the resulting injury. The jury returned a verdict for Becker and Masters appealed.
In a cause of action for battery, what must the plaintiff prove regarding the defendant’s intent?
Holding and Rule
Restatement (Second) of Torts § 16 – Character of Intent Necessary
- (1) If an act is done with the intention of inflicting upon another an offensive but not a harmful bodily contact, or of putting another in apprehension of either a harmful or offensive bodily contact, and such act causes a bodily contact to the other, the actor is liable to the other for a battery although the act was not done with the intention of bringing about the resulting bodily harm.
A plaintiff must prove only: 1) that there was bodily contact; 2) that such contact was offensive; and 3) that the defendant intended to make the contact. The plaintiff is not required to prove that the defendant intended to cause the specific injuries sustained or that she intended any injury whatsoever. The trial court was in error in requiring Masters to prove that Becker in fact intended the injuries.
Judgment reversed, new trial granted.
See Vosburg v. Putney for a law school torts case brief which provides an example of an application of the “eggshell skull” rule whereby a defendant in claim for battery is liable for damages arising from unforeseen injuries.