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Pursuant to Wash. Rev. Code § 4.22.015, "fault" includes acts or omissions, including misuse of a product, that are in any measure negligent or reckless toward the person or property of the actor or others, or that subject a person to strict tort liability or liability on a product liability claim. The term also includes breach of warranty, unreasonable assumption of risk, and unreasonable failure to avoid an injury or to mitigate damages. Legal requirements of causal relation apply both to fault as the basis for liability and to contributory fault.
Mary Morgan sued Louis Johnson for damages resulting from Johnson’s alleged commission of the intentional torts of assault and battery. The jury returned a verdict for Morgan, but considered Johnson’s alleged intoxication as a defense. The jury concluded that Johnson was under the influence of intoxicating liquor during the incident in question, that Johnson’s intoxication was a proximate cause of her injuries, and Johnson was more than 50 percent at fault.
Is the intoxication defense provided in RCW 5.40.060 available to an intentional tortfeasor?
The court held that the intoxication defense available under Wash. Rev. Code § 5.40.060 did not apply to intentional torts. The court found that the statute utilized the term "fault," which, pursuant to Wash. Rev. Code § 4.22.015, referred to acts of negligence or recklessness, but did not refer to intentional torts. Accordingly, the defense was not available in an assault and battery case.