An actor is subject to liability to another for battery if intending to cause a third person to have an imminent apprehension of harmful bodily contact, the actor causes the other to suffer harmful contact.
Plaintiff spectator brought an action sounding in battery and negligence against defendants, pitcher and baseball club. The district court entered a directed verdict on the battery count, and the jury returned a general verdict for defendants on the negligence count. Plaintiff appealed only the directed verdict on battery.
Was it error for the district court to have directed a verdict for defendant on the battery count?
The appellate court vacated and remanded for a new trial, holding that the jury could have found a battery on facts that the pitcher was expert, looked at the spectators several times immediately following heckling, and that the ball traveled at a right angle from the direction in which he had been pitching. Under general tort law, absolute liability was imposed whether the harm was intended at plaintiff or a third person. Further, plaintiff was not collaterally estopped from asserting battery simply because he did not appeal the adverse negligence judgment. Rather, the general verdict did not conclusively determine that the pitch into the stands was not intentional. Further, the judgment was reversed as to the baseball club also, as the jury could have found that the heckling interfered with the pitcher's ability to perform his job.