White v. Muniz

999 P.2d 814 (Colo. 2000)



An actor is subject to liability to another for battery if he acts intending to cause a harmful or offensive contact with the person of the other or a third person, or if an imminent apprehension of such a contact, and an offensive or harmful contact with the person of the other directly or indirectly results. An act which is not done with the intention previously stated does not make the actor liable to the other for a mere offensive contact with the other's person although the act involves an unreasonable risk of inflicting it, and therefore, would be negligent or reckless if the risk threatened bodily harm.


An elderly woman who was placed in a personal care center began to exhibit erratic behavior, becoming agitated easily and acting aggressively toward others on occasion. On one occasion, she struck plaintiff care-giver in the jaw. Plaintiff filed a suit for assault and battery but the court ruled in favor of the elderly woman and her granddaughter. On appeal, the court ruled that a mentally incapacitated adult should be held liable for her intentional tort even if she was unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of her actions. The Supreme Court reversed judgment and reinstated the jury verdict.



Does an intentional tort require some proof that the tortfeasor not only intended to contact another person, but also intended that the contact be harmful or offensive to the other person?




In order to recover on a theory of intentional tort, the plaintiff was required to prove that the actor, despite her characteristics, desired to cause both contact and offensive or harmful consequences by her act, although not the harm that actually resulted. The court held that the jury had determined that there was no such intent.

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