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Law School Case Brief

Taylor v. Barwick - C.A. No. 93C-02-010-WTQ, 1997 Del. Super. LEXIS 26 (Super. Ct. Jan. 10, 1997)


For a bodily contact to be offensive, it must offend a reasonable sense of personal dignity. In order for a contact to 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 is unwarranted by the social usages prevalent at the time and place at which it is inflicted.


On Jan. 5, 1993, plaintiff Moses Bernard Taylor, then an inmate at the Delaware Correctional Center, filed a pro se action in Delaware superior court against defendants George Barwick, Richard Shockley, George Glascock, and Robert E. Snyder. In his action for battery, Taylor alleged that Barwick, an officer with the state's department of corrections, committed a battery against him on June 4, 1992 as he was entering the dining hall. Specifically, Taylor alleged that Barwick poked him on the back side with a tree branch. According to Taylor, Barwick then began to laugh at him and made some derogatory comments indicating his hairstyle was "for girls." Taylor contended that he attempted to pursue this matter through institutional grievance procedures, but that the corrections officers responsible for administering the grievance procedures laughed at him and refused to take remedial action. For his part, Barwick admitted to causing contact to Taylor with a tree branch, but he contended that the incident was an accident. Taylor and Barwick filed motions for summary judgment.


Was Taylor entitled to compensatory damages?




After four years, Taylor had produced no evidence of any injury or harm for which compensatory damages could be awarded. The court denied Taylor's motion for summary judgment, and denied in part Barwick's motion for summary judgment as to the entire cause of action for battery. The court granted Barwick's motion in part, with regard to the issue of damages. The court held that since a battery was essentially an unpermitted touching, and actual harm was not a necessary element of the proof of a battery, the court could not dismiss the action outright. The court held that on the issue of damages, Taylor had been given ample time to produce evidence of injury and had failed to do so. The court ruled that a technical battery, where no injury was involved, justified only nominal damages. With there being no possibility of compensatory damages, the court held that punitive damage would also be improper as a matter of law.

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