To escape liability for damages resulting from a battery, the defendant may prove that his actions were privileged or justified, such as self-defense. The defendant's actions can be justified as self-defense if there was an actual or reasonably apparent threat to his safety and the force employed was not excessive in degree or kind. The privilege of self-defense is based on the prevention of harm to the actor, not on the desire for retaliation or revenge, no matter how understandable that desire.
A former employee filed a claim for battery against his former employer, alleging that the former employer physically accosted him at his new place of employment. At trial, the employer testified that he felt threatened by the messages the employee left on his voice mail, and he went to the employee's new place of employment to tell the employee to stop harassing and calling him. According to the employer, when he entered the employee's office, the employee quickly turned around in his chair, yelled an obscenity at him, and began to rise from his chair. The employer testified that he was scared the employee would carry out his threats, which was why he struck the employee. The employer moved for an involuntary dismissal on the issues of consent and self-defense. The trial court granted the dismissal and the case was appealed to the Court of Appeal of Louisiana.
Was the physical assault justified under self-defense?
The Court held that neither the messages nor the employee allegedly yelling an obscenity immediately before he was struck, justified the employer's physical attack. All of the witnesses testified that the employee did not make any threatening moves toward the employer when the employer entered his office. The employee maintained that he did not get out of his chair, make any threatening moves, or say anything before he was struck. The record did not support a finding that there was an actual or reasonably apparent threat to the employer's safety. The employee tried to protect himself by covering his face. The employer's repeated hitting of the employee did not demonstrate self-defense.