Law School Case Brief
Gerber v. Veltri - 203 F. Supp. 3d 846 (N.D. Ohio 2016)
Intent is an essential element of both torts. Liability for assault requires that the actor actually intend to place another in apprehension of a harmful or offensive contact.
Plaintiff Scott Gerber was a law professor at Ohio Northern University School of Lae (ONU). He accused his colleague, defendant Stephen Veltri, of an assault and battery in a law school hallway. Veltri admitted that he touched Gerber’s shoulder, but merely to direct him to the nearby faculty lounge, so that the two could speak privately about Gerber’s recent confrontation with the law school librarian. The plaintiff filed a complaint against Veltri, alleging that Veltri’s shoulder touch amounted to assault and battery under Ohio tort law.
Can Veltri be held liable for assault and battery for touching plaintiff's shoulder?
The Court held that assault and battery were distinct but closely related causes of action. The Court noted that the tort of assault was defined as the willful threat or attempt to harm or touch another offensively, which threat or attempt reasonably placed the other in fear of such contact. On the other hand, a person was subject to liability for battery when he acted intending to cause a harmful or offensive contact, and when a harmful contact results. The Court held that in order that a contact be offensive to a reasonable sense of personal dignity, it must be one which would offend the ordinary person and as such one not unduly sensitive as to his personal dignity. It must, therefore, be a contact which was unwarranted by the social usages prevalent at the time and place at which it was inflicted. There was no evidence that Veltri's contact was either physically harmful or offensive to a reasonable sense of dignity.
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