McGuire v. Almy – Case Brief

McGuire v. Almy, 8 N.E. 2d 760 (Mass. 1937).

Facts: McGuire (P) was a registered nurse and had been employed to care for Almy (D), an insane person, on a 24 hour basis. McGuire knew that Almy, who was kept in a locked room, was insane but otherwise in good physical condition. McGuire had been taking care of Almy for 18 months when Almy had a violent attack. Almy broke furniture and warned McGuire not to enter the room or she would be killed. P entered the room to prevent D from hurting herself. P approached D who held a piece of broken furniture over her head and P was injured.

P sued D and the jury entered a verdict in P’s favor and the court entered judgment in P’s favor and awarded damages for tort assault and battery.

Issue: Is insanity a defense to intentional torts?

Holding and Rule: No. An insane person is judged by the same standards as a normal person. The intent to do the act is the key to a battery and if an insane person can form an intent to do an act he can be liable. The insane person must be capable of forming that intent and must have actually acted upon that intent. The fact that an insane person cannot control his acts is not a defense.

Disposition: Affirmed.

Notes: There are some exceptions to the general rule that insanity is not a defense to intentional torts. Insanity has been ruled to prevent liability for certain torts that require a showing of malicious intent such as defamation and deceit.

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