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In a battery cause of action, it is not necessary to prove the actor had a "specific design" to cause bodily contact. The intent with which tort liability is concerned is not necessarily a hostile intent, or a desire to do any harm. Rather it is an intent to bring about a result which will invade the interests of another in a way that the law forbids.
Frey and Kouf were friends and business associates. They got into a heated discussion and a fight. Frey suffered from a severed artery in his face and his front teeth were shattered. Frey brought a cause of action against Kouf on the alternate theories of "intentional assault" (battery) and "negligent assault" (negligence). The matter was tried before a jury. The jury found in favor of Kouf, and the trial court entered a judgment dismissing Frey’s complaint. Frey made a timely motion for new trial and, in the alternative, for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict. The trial court denied those motions. Frey appealed.
Did the trial court err in instructing the jury on the definition of "intent" within the context of civil proceedings?
The court agreed with Frey that the trial court erred in instructing the jury on the definition of "intent" within the context of civil proceedings and that the instruction as given was prejudicial. Frey, although he had not offered a jury instruction on defining the element of intent, adequately preserved the issue for appeal. No particular formality was required when objecting to instructions, pursuant to S.D. Codified Laws § 15-6-51(b) (1984); the objection was sufficient if the judge was informed of the possible error so that he might have the opportunity to make corrections. The trial court defined the word "intentionally" as having a specific design to cause a certain result. The court held that intent extended to consequences that Kouf believed were substantially certain to follow.