A battery consists of the infliction of a harmful or offensive contact upon another with the intent to cause such contact or the apprehension that such contact is imminent. Proof of the technical invasion of the integrity of the plaintiff's person by even an entirely harmless, but offensive contact entitles the plaintiff to vindication of the legal right by an award of nominal damages, and the establishment of the tort cause of action entitles the plaintiff also to compensation for the resulting mental disturbance, such as fright, revulsion, or humiliation.
Paul and Holbrook are former employees of a company. On various occasions, Paul worked alone with Holbrook. During some of these times, Paul alleges that Holbrook harassed her by asking that she wear revealing clothing and suggesting that they engage in sexual relations. Paul claims that on two occasions, Holbrook came up behind her while she was working and tried to massage her shoulders. On both occasions, Paul immediately pulled away and told Holbrook to leave, which he did. After Paul complained to PMP's management, she and Holbrook never again worked the same shifts and his improper behavior toward her ended. Paul filed a case against Holbrook and the company for assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and negligent hiring and retention. At trial,Paul testified that Holbrook was her co-worker and not her supervisor. The case was resolved by summary judgment in favor of the company and Holbrook.
Did battery occur?
On appeal, the court found no merit in Paul's claims, except for her claim of battery. The court determined the tort of battery consisted of the infliction of a harmful or offensive contact upon another with the intent to cause such contact or the apprehension that such contact was imminent. In reversing the summary judgment on the battery claim, the court found that it was for the trier of fact to decide whether the act of her co-worker in approaching Paul from behind and massaging her shoulders was offensive and whether intent to commit battery could reasonably be inferred from the circumstances.