An actor commits a battery if (a) he acts intending to cause a harmful or offensive contact with the person of an other or a third person, or an imminent apprehension of such a contact, and (b) a harmful contact with the person of an other directly or indirectly results.
Liability for battery emphasizes a plaintiff's lack of consent to the touching. "Offensive contact" is said to occur when the contact offends a reasonable sense of personal dignity.
Plaintiffs, patient and husband (patient), filed suit against defendants, nurse and hospital, in the Circuit Court of Jackson County (Illinois) after the male nurse observed and touched her naked body against her wishes. The complaints alleged battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violation of the Right of Conscience Act, 745 Ill. Comp. Stat. 70/2 (1992). The patient appealed the grant of the defendants' motions to dismiss. The dismissal of the patient's and husband's causes of action was reversed and the case was remanded.
Did defendant nurse commit battery by knowingly violating plaintiff's privacy interests and religious standards and beliefs by touching her without her consent?
The nurse and hospital argued that the patient was required to comply with 735 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/2-622 (1992) because she sought damages by reason of healing art malpractice. The patient argued that the nurse committed battery when he knowingly violated her privacy interests and religious standards and beliefs by touching her without her consent. The court held that it was unnecessary for the patient to comply with 735 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/2-622 (1992) because she had not alleged that any medical standard was violated. The nurse's and hospital's defenses based upon their positions in the healing art fields had not transformed the case into a medical malpractice claim. When the patient made her wishes known to the hospital, it implicitly agreed to provide her with treatment within the restrictions placed by her religious beliefs. The battery and the intentional infliction of emotional distress counts were properly alleged. There was nothing in the record that indicated that the patient's beliefs were less than sincere or that they did not have some relation to her belief in God. The patient was entitled to present her claim under the Right of Conscience Act.