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Assault and Battery: Intent and Autonomy

In the absence of statutes that clearly delineate acceptable from unacceptable behavior – that’s the realm of criminal law, and still plenty complicated – tort law often requires a court to draw boundaries on the fly as individual cases come up. Here we look at a cluster of problems arising generally from situations in which society might say the wrongness of an act may be minimal or entirely lacking – yet a victim steps forward to earnestly claim that his or her wishes about bodily integrity have been disrespected.

The rough and tumble of daily life – “the implied license of the playground” – allows some license for those who offend with physical contact, including against the especially sensitive. When does that license end, particularly if a plaintiff’s special sensitivities are known to a defendant? Are there any larger principles at work to help us resolve conflicts in this zone, or that at least capture the instincts that might find themselves in opposition?

  • 1 Latent Sensitivities and Reservations

    • 1.1 Wishnatsky v. Huey--"The Overly-Sensitive Intruder"

      • 1.1.1 Wishnatsky v. Huey-- “The Overly-Sensitive Intruder”

        Should findings of offensive-contact-battery be based on a plaintiff’s level of sensitivity, or a more general standard?

        1
        584 N.W.2d 859 (1998)
        2
        1998 ND App 8
        3
        Martin WISHNATSKY, Plaintiff and Appellant,
        v.
        David W. HUEY, Defendant and Appellee.
        4
        Civil No. 980067CA.
        5

        Court of Appeals of North Dakota.

        6
        September 15, 1998. 
        7

        Martin Wishnatsky, Fargo, pro se.

        8

        Andrew Moraghan, Assistant Attorney General, Attorney General's Office, Bismarck, for defendant and appellee.

        9
        [860] PER CURIAM.
        10

        Martin Wishnatsky appealed a summary judgment dismissing his battery action against David W. Huey, and an order denying his motion for an altered judgment. We conclude, as a matter of law, that no battery occurred, and we affirm the judgment and the order.

        11

        On January 10, 1996, Huey, an assistant attorney general, was engaged in a conversation with attorney Peter B. Crary in Crary's office. Without knocking or announcing his entry, Wishnatsky, who performs paralegal work for Crary, attempted to enter the office. Huey pushed the door closed, thereby pushing Wishnatsky back into the hall. Wishnatsky reentered the office and Huey left.

        12

        Wishnatsky brought an action against Huey, seeking damages for battery.[1] Huey moved for summary judgment of dismissal. The trial court granted Huey's motion and a judgment of dismissal was entered. Wishnatsky moved to alter the judgment. The trial court denied Wishnatsky's motion.

        13

        Wishnatsky appealed, contending the evidence he submitted in response to Huey's motion for summary judgment satisfies the elements of a battery claim and the trial court erred in granting Huey's motion. Wishnatsky also contends Huey is not entitled to prosecutorial or statutory immunity.

        14

        Summary judgment is a procedural device for the prompt and expeditious disposition of a controversy without trial if either party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, if no dispute exists as to either the material facts or the inferences to be drawn from undisputed facts, or if resolving factual disputes would not alter the result. Perry Center, Inc. v. Heitkamp, 1998 ND 78, ¶ 12, 576 N.W.2d 505. "In considering a motion for summary judgment, a court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion, who must be given the benefit of all favorable inferences which reasonably can be drawn from the evidence." Mougey Farms v. Kaspari, 1998 ND 118, ¶ 12, 579 N.W.2d 583. "Disputes of fact become questions of law if reasonable persons can draw only one conclusion from the evidence." Id. In reviewing a summary judgment, an appellate court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party to determine if the trial court properly granted summary judgment as a matter of law. Tuhy v. Schlabsz, 1998 ND 31, ¶ 5, 574 N.W.2d 823. On a defendant's motion for summary judgment, the question for the court is "whether a fair-minded jury could return a verdict for the plaintiff on the evidence presented. The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

        15

        "In its original conception [battery] meant the infliction of physical injury." VIII Sir William Holdsworth, A History of English Law 422 (2d Impression 1973). By the Eighteenth Century, the requirement of an actual physical injury had been eliminated:

        16

        At Nisi Prius, upon evidence in trespass for assault and battery, Holt, C.J. declared,

        17

        1. That the least touching of another in anger is a battery. 2. If two or more meet in a narrow passage, and without any violence or design of harm, the one touches the other gently, it is no battery. 3. If any of them use violence against the other, to force his way in a rude inordinate manner, it is a battery; or any struggle about the passage, to that degree as may do hurt, is a battery. Vid.Bro.Tresp. 236. 7 E. 4, 26. 22 Ass. 60. 3 H. 4, 9.

        18

        Cole v. Turner, Pasch. 3 Ann., 6 Mod. 149, 90 Eng.Rep. 958 (1704). Blackstone explained:

        19

        The least touching of another's person willfully, or in anger, is a battery; for the law cannot draw the line between different degrees [861] of violence, and therefore totally prohibits the first and lowest stage of it: every man's person being sacred, and no other having a right to meddle with it, in any the slightest manner.

        20

        3 William Blackstone, Commentaries *120. On the other hand, "in a crowded world, a certain amount of personal contact is inevitable, and must be accepted." W. Page Keeton et al., Prosser and Keeton on the Law of Torts § 9, at 42 (5th ed.1984).

        21

        The American Law Institute has balanced the interest in unwanted contacts and the inevitable contacts in a crowded world in Restatement (Second) of Torts §§ 18, 19 (1965):

        22

        18. Battery: Offensive Contact

        23

        (1) An actor is subject to liability to another for battery if

        24

        (a) he acts intending to cause a harmful or offensive contact with the person of the other or a third person, or an imminent apprehension of such a contact, and

        25

        (b) an offensive contact with the person of the other directly or indirectly results.

        26

        (2) An act which is not done with the intention stated in Subsection (1,a) 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.

        27

        ....

        28

        19. What Constitutes Offensive Contact

        29

        A bodily contact is offensive if it offends a reasonable sense of personal dignity.

        30

        Comment c to § 18 notes that the contact need not be "directly caused by some act of the actor" and also notes that "the essence of the plaintiff's grievance consists in the offense to the dignity involved in the unpermitted and intentional invasion of the inviolability of his person and not in any physical harm done to his body." Comment a to § 19 explains what kind of conduct offends a reasonable sense of personal dignity:

        31

        In order that a contact be offensive to a reasonable sense of personal dignity, it must be one which would offend the ordinary person and as such one not unduly sensitive as to his personal dignity. It must, therefore, be a contact which is unwarranted by the social usages prevalent at the time and place at which it is inflicted.

        32

        Huey moved for summary judgment of dismissal, because, among other things, "as a matter of law, a battery did not occur on January 10, 1996." Huey supported the motion with his affidavit stating in part:

        33

        8. That Attorney Crary and I had settled into a serious discussion about the case and had established a good rapport when the door to his office suddenly swung open without a knock. An unidentified individual carrying some papers then strode in unannounced. I had not been told that anyone would be entering Attorney Crary's office during the private meeting.... I subsequently learned that the individual's name is Martin Wishnatsky.

        34

        Wishnatsky responded to Huey's motion for summary judgment with an affidavit of Crary and with his own affidavit stating in part:

        35

        1. I am a born-again Christian and cultivate holiness in my life. [A]s a result I am very sensitive to evil spirits and am greatly disturbed by the demonic. However, in Christ there is victory.

        36

        2. On January 9, 1996, Mr. David Huey of the North Dakota Attorney General's office, visited the ministry where I was working at 16 Broadway in Fargo, North Dakota with an ex parte court order.

        37

        3. The following morning I entered the office of Peter Crary, an attorney for whom I do paralegal work, to give him certain papers that had been requested. Mr. Crary was speaking with Mr. David Huey at the time. As I began to enter the office Mr Huey threw his body weight against the door and forced me out into the hall. I had not said a word to him. At the same time, he snarled: "You get out of here." This was very shocking and frightening to me. In all the time I have been working as an aide to Mr. Crary, I have never been physically assaulted or spoken to in a harsh and brutal manner. My blood pressure began to rise, my heart beat accelerated and I felt waves of fear in the pit of my stomach. My hands began to shake and my body to tremble. Composing myself, I reentered the office, whereupon [862] Mr. Huey began a half-demented tirade against me and stormed out into the hall. I looked at Mr. Crary in wonder.

        38

        We certainly agree with the Supreme Court's determination that when Wishnatsky attempted to enter the room in which Huey was conversing with Crary, "Huey apparently reacted in a rude and abrupt manner in attempting to exclude Wishnatsky from that conversation." Wishnatsky v. Huey, 1997 ND 35, ¶ 15, 560 N.W.2d 878. As a matter of law, however, Huey's "rude and abrupt" conduct did not rise to the level of battery.

        39

        The evidence presented to the trial court demonstrates Wishnatsky is "unduly sensitive as to his personal dignity." Restatement (Second) of Torts § 19 cmt. a (1965). Without knocking or otherwise announcing his intentions, Wishnatsky opened the door to the office in which Huey and Crary were having a private conversation and attempted to enter. Huey closed the door opened by Wishnatsky, thereby stopping Wishnatsky's forward progress and pushing him back into the hall. The bodily contact was momentary, indirect, and incidental. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Wishnatsky, and giving him the benefit of all favorable inferences which can reasonably be drawn from the evidence, we conclude Huey's conduct in response to Wishnatsky's intrusion into his private conversation with Crary, while "rude and abrupt," would not "be offensive to a reasonable sense of personal dignity." In short, an "ordinary person ... not unduly sensitive as to his personal dignity" intruding upon a private conversation in Wishnatsky's manner would not have been offended by Huey's response to the intrusion. We conclude that Huey's conduct did not constitute an offensive-contact-battery, as a matter of law, and the trial court did not err in granting Huey's motion for summary judgment dismissing Wishnatsky's action.

        40

        Because we have concluded there was no battery as a matter of law, we need not address the immunity issues Wishnatsky has raised. We need not consider questions, the answers to which are unnecessary to the determination of the case. See, e.g., Kaler v. Kraemer, 1998 ND 56, ¶ 10, 574 N.W.2d 588; Hospital Servs., Inc. v. Brooks, 229 N.W.2d 69, 71 (N.D.1975).

        41

        Affirmed.

        42

        HOBERG, C.J., WILLIAM F. HODNY, Surrogate Judge, and DEBBIE G. KLEVEN, District Judge, concur.

        43

        [1] Wishnatsky also sought a disorderly conduct restraining order under N.D.C.C. Ch. 12.1-31.2 against Huey, based on the January 10, 1996, incident, and another on January 25, 1996. In affirming a judgment dismissing Wishnatsky's petition, our Supreme Court concluded "Huey's conduct did not rise to the level of intrusive behavior which would warrant a reasonable person to conclude Huey committed the offense of disorderly conduct." Wishnatsky v. Huey, 1997 ND 35, ¶ 15, 560 N.W.2d 878.

      • 1.1.2 Wishnatsky's (Plaintiff's) Amended Complaint

        1
        STATE OF NORTH DAKOTA COUNTY OF CASS


        Martin Wishnatsky,
        Plaintiff,
        vs.
        David W. Huey,
        Defendant.


        IN DISTRICT COURT EAST CENTRAL JUDICIAL DISTRICT


        Civil No.

        2
        AMENDED COMPLAINT

        5

        Plaintiff for his complaint, states and alleges as follows:

        6
        Parties

        8

        1. He is a resident of Cass County, North Dakota.
        2. Defendant David W. Huey is an assistant attorney general for the state of North Dakota and a resident of Bismarck. Defendant is being sued in both his individual and official capacities.Jurisdiction
        3. This action arises under the common law of torts.



        11
        Events

        13

        4. Plaintiff has his office on the third floor of 16 Broadway in Fargo and provides paralegal services to attorney Peter Crary whose office is on the same floor. It is very common and a matter of routine for the plaintiff to be in and out of Mr. Crary's office during the day.
        5. On Wednesday morning, January 10th, 1996, at approximately 10:00 a.m. during normal business hours the plaintiff entered Mr. Crary's office to give him certain papers that had been requested. Mr. Crary was speaking with defendant David Huey at the time. As the plaintiff began to enter the office, Mr. Huey snarled: "You get out of here." Simultaneously the defendant threw his body weight against the door to prevent the plaintiff from entering Mr. Crary's office. The pressure of the door being forced against his body by Mr. Huey overcame plaintiff’s forward movement and he was physically forced backwards and out into the hall.
        6. The plaintiff had not said a word to Mr. Huey to provoke this attack. He had done nothing more than to open the door and to begin to walk into Mr. Crary's office, something he routinely did many times every work day.
        7. The plaintiff was shocked and frightened by Mr. Huey's physical attack upon him. In all the time he had been providing paralegal services to Mr. Crary, he had never been physically assaulted or spoken to in a harsh and brutal manner. Plaintiff’s blood pressure began to rise. His heartbeat accelerated and he experienced waves of fear in the pit of his stomach. Plaintiff’s hands also began to shake and his body trembled.
        8. Composing himself, the plaintiff reentered Mr. Crary's office to deliver the papers to him and made a brief and respectful statement to Mr. Huey that as a public servant he had an obligation to treat the public with respect and courtesy. Mr. Huey then went into a tirade, stating that he would no longer discuss anything with Mr. Crary, that his time was too valuable, etc. He then stormed out into the hall. The plaintiff then gave Mr. Crary the papers he had originally entered his office to provide and left.
        9. After this experience it took the plaintiff a considerable amount of time to settle down and get into his work routine. He was emotionally upset and frightened by the abusive behavior of the state's representative.



        16
        Cause of Action for Battery

        18

        10. By the actions described in paragraphs 5-8, the defendant intentionally and in anger engaged in violent, offensive, insulting, uninvited and unwanted physical contact with the plaintiff.
        11. This unpermitted contact, as described above, was reasonably offensive to the plaintiffs sense of personal dignity, was unwarranted by the social usages prevalent in an office environment and in the legal community, and was contrary to all good manners.
        12. This offensive contact constituted a battery upon the person of the plaintiff.
        13. Defendant's actions constitute malfeasance in that the battery was a wholly wrongful and unlawful act.



        21
        Damages

        23

        14. Plaintiff is entitled to nominal damages for the battery itself and compensatory damages for the emotional upset, fear and distress caused by the defendants' actions.
        15. Plaintiff requests a trial by jury and such other and further relief as the court may deem suitable.



        27
        Dated this 2nd day of August, 1996.

        Martin Wishnatsky
      • 1.1.3 Letters Between Litigants

        1

        Mr. Andrew Moraghan
        Assistant Attorney General
        900 East Boulevard
        Bismarck ND 58505



        4

        RE: Wishnatsky v. Huey
        Civil No. 96-2297



        7

        Dear Mr. Moraghan:

        Enclosed is a draft motion to compel in the above matter. In the interest of allowing the defendant to reconsider his discovery responses, the motion is being sent to you for consideration.

        I will allow you a week or two to consider the motion before filing it. If you need more time or decide voluntarily to supplement the responses served on January 29, 1997, please let me know.

        Sincerely,
        Martin Wishnatsky





        13

        OFFICE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL

        STATE OF NORTH DAKOTA
        May 23, 1997
        15

        Mr. Martin Wishnatsky
        P.O. Box 413 Fargo, ND 58107

        16

        RE: Wishnatsky v. Huey Civil
        No. 96-2297

        17

        Dear Mr. Wishnatsky:

        Thank you for your letter dated May 13, 1997.

        We believe that there were valid grounds for the objections that we interposed to your interrogatories. Therefore, we will not be amending our answers.

        We do not believe that your proposed motion to compel discovery would be substantially justified. Furthermore, we believe that the interrogatories to which we objected were designed to harass the defendant. Therefore, if you elect to file your motion, it is likely that we will seek reasonable expenses, including attorney's fees, incurred in opposing the motion.

        Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Thank you.

        Sincerely,

        Andrew Moraghan

        18

        Assistant Attorney
        General Office of Attorney General
        900 East Boulevard Avenue
        Bismarck, ND 58505-0041
        Telephone (701) 328-3640
        Facsimile (701) 328-4300

        19

        jjt
        cc: Dave Huey

      • 1.1.4 Crary's Affidavit

        1
        STATE OF NORTH DAKOTA COUNTY OF CASS IN DISTRICT COURT EAST CENTRAL JUDICIAL DISTRICT
        Martin Wishnatsky, Civil No. 96-2297 Plaintiff, vs. AFFIDAVIT OF PETER B. CRARY David W. Huey, Defendant.
        3

        Peter B. Crary, being duly sworn, deposes and says:

        4

        1. I am a member of the North Dakota Bar Association. My law office is at 1201 12th Avenue North in Fargo. My legal assistant is Martin Wishnatsky.

        5

        2. In January of 1996, my offices were on the third floor of the old Herbst Building at 16 Broadway in downtown Fargo. Mr. Wishnatsky occupied an office across the hall from me. The offices had full-length glass-paneled windows and doors.

        6

        3. On the morning of Wednesday, January 10, 1996 I was having a conversation in my office with North Dakota Assistant Attorney General David Huey, when Mr. Wishnatsky opened the door and walked in. Martin was carrying certain papers which were pertinent to my discussion with Mr. Huey and was entering the room to deliver them to me as part of his duties as my legal assistant. It is quite common for Martin to be in and out of my office during the day. There was nothing unusual in his entering my office at this time.

        7

        4. Mr. Huey had been conducting himself in an orderly manner during our conversation. However, when Mr. Wishnatsky began to enter my office, he seemed to undergo a personality change and went into an emotional "spike." He snarled at Mr. Wishnatsky to get out of the room and then, as it appeared to me, physically forced Martin out into the hall by thrusting his body weight against the door. I believe he also made physical contact with Martin's body as well as the door. I was quite startled at this behavior because (1) it seemed to be a sudden personality change on Mr. Huey's part and (2) it seemed as if, prior to this change in behavior, we were having what I would characterize as an amicable exchange in my office.

        8

        Frankly, I simply had no prior experience of a visitor to my office at 16 Broadway or in any other location becoming physically aggressive and hostile until I witnessed this behavior by Mr. Huey. Mr. Huey's actions were completely unprovoked by Mr. Wishnatsky who had not previously said a word to him.

        9

        5. Mr. Wishnatsky reentered my office to deliver the papers to me and made a brief and respectful statement to Mr. Huey that as a public servant he had an obligation to treat the public with respect and courtesy. Mr. Huey then went into an irrational tirade, stating that he would no longer discuss anything with me, that his time was too valuable, etc., and stormed out into the hall. Mr. Wishnatsky called after him, "David," attempting, it seemed to me, to calm him down. Mr. Wishnatsky gave me the papers he had originally entered my office to provide. He then left. Mr. Huey re-entered the office and we resumed our conversation.

        10

        6. Certainly Mr. Huey's "spike" was unusual and not in keeping with the geniality that is becoming a businessman/lawyer/public servant. Furthermore, over my years of serving the public, I have never witnessed such an abrupt ("spike") change of personality!

        11

        7. Obviously I regard this as a very serious matter and certainly remain available should I be called upon further to elaborate on this event.

        12

        8. Attached to this affidavit as Exhibit A are enlargements of photos taken subsequent to the events described above which depict a re-enactment of Mr. Wishnatsky entering my office at 16 Broadway. The photos show the glass paneled-door and windows. The chair Mr. Huey was sitting in is depicted in the location it occupied at the time of the incident.

        13

        9. Any visitor to my office was visible through the glass in the door before entering. My desk was positioned facing the door.

        15

        Peter B. Crary:

    • 1.2 O'Brien v. Cunard--"The Silent Vaccine Objector"

      Should we expect actors to respect the inner wishes of others, even when those desires contradict—or at least fail to be reflected in—external behavior?

      Notes: Plaintiff stood in a vaccination line on a ship. When plaintiff reached the ship’s surgeon, she claimed to have been vaccinated before. However, because no vaccination mark was visible, the surgeon insisted that she be vaccinated again. Plaintiff voluntarily raised her arm to be vaccinated and took a ticket which certified her vaccination and avoid quarantine upon leaving the ship. Nevertheless, the plaintiff’s suit alleged that she did not consent to the vaccination.
      1
      MARY E. O'BRIEN
      2
      vs.
      3
      CUNARD STEAMSHIP COMPANY. 
      4

      Suffolk. January 19, 1891. — September 1, 1891.

      5

      Present: FIELD, C. J., ALLEN, HOLMES, KNOWLTON, & MORTON, JJ.

      6

      Carrier by Sea Surgeon Assault Negligent Vaccination.

      7

      If the surgeon of a foreign steamship, bringing immigrants to a port of this country where the quarantine regulations require vaccination as a prerequisite to landing, vaccinates one of them whose behavior indicates consent on her part, whatever her unexpressed feelings may be, he is justified in his act, and the ship-owner is not liable therefor as for an assault.

      8

      A ship-owner who provides a competent surgeon, whom the passengers may employ if they choose, is not liable for his negligence in the medical treatment of a passenger, either at common law or by the TJ. S. St. of August 2, 1882, § 5, which requires every vessel transporting immigrant passengers to carry a surgeon or [273] medical practitioner, "who shall be rated as such in the ship's articles, and who shall be provided with surgical instruments, medical comforts, and medicines," and makes the master of the vessel liable to a penalty for its violation. In an action against a steamship company for assault by a ship's surgeon in vaccinating a steerage passenger brought toa port in this State, evidence consisting of the printed quarantine regulations of the port, to the effect that only such steerage passengers as held certificates from such surgeon that they had been vaccinated would be allowed to land without detention or vaccination, and of testimony that such regulations were carried out, was heldto be properly admitted.

      9

      TORT, for an assault, and for negligently vaccinating the plaintiff, a steerage passenger on the steamship Catalonia. Trial in the Superior Court, before Staples, J., who ruled that, upon the evidence, the plaintiff could not maintain the action, and ordered a verdict for the defendant; and the plaintiff alleged exceptions. The nature of the evidence appears in the opinion.

      10

      E. N. Hill & F. Cunningham, for the plaintiff.

      11

      G. Putnam, (T. Russell with him,) for the defendant.

      12
      KNOWLTON, J.
      13

      This case presents two questions: first, whether there was any evidence to warrant the jury in finding that the defendant, by any of its servants or agents, committed an assault on the plaintiff; secondly, whether there was evidence on which the jury could have found that the defendant was guilty of negligence towards the plaintiff. To sustain the first count, which was for an alleged assault, the plaintiff relied on the fact that the surgeon who was employed by the defendant vaccinated her on shipboard, while she was on her passage from Queenstown to Boston. On this branch of the case the question is whether there was any evidence that the surgeon used force upon the plaintiff against her will. In determining whether the act was lawful or unlawful, the surgeon's conduct must be considered in connection with the circumstances. If the plaintiff's behavior was such as to indicate consent on her part, he was justified in his act, whatever her unexpressed feelings may have been. In determining whether she consented, he could be guided only by her overt acts and the manifestations of her feelings. Ford v. Ford, 143 Mass. 577, 578. McCarthy v. Boston & Lowell Railroad, 148 Mass. 550, 552. It is undisputed that at Boston there are strict quarantine regulations in regard to the examination of immigrants, to see that they are protected from small-pox by vaccination, and that only those [274] persons who hold a certificate from the medical officer of the steamship, stating that they are so protected, are permitted to land without detention in quarantine or vaccination by the port physician. It appears that the defendant is accustomed to have its surgeons vaccinate all immigrants who desire it, and who are not protected by previous vaccination, and give them a certificate which is accepted at quarantine as evidence of their protection. Notices of the regulations at quarantine, and of the willingness of the ship's medical officer to vaccinate such as needed vaccination, were posted about the ship, in various languages, and on the day when the operation was performed the surgeon had a right to presume that she and the other women who were vaccinated understood the importance and purpose of vaccination for those who bore no marks to show that they were protected. By the plaintiff's testimony, which in this particular is undisputed, it appears that about two hundred women passengers were assembled below, and she understood from conversation with them that they were to be vaccinated; that she stood about fifteen feet from the surgeon, and saw them form in a line and pass in turn before him; that he "examined their arms, and, passing some of them by, proceeded to vaccinate those that had no mark"; that she did not hear him say anything to any of them; that upon being passed by they each received a card and went on deck; that when her turn came she showed him her arm, and he looked at it and said there was no mark, and that she should be vaccinated; that she told him she had been vaccinated before and it left no mark; "that he then said nothing, that he should vaccinate her again"; that she held up her arm to be vaccinated; that no one touched her; that she did not tell him that she did not want to be vaccinated; and that she took the ticket which he gave her certifying that he had vaccinated her, and used it at quarantine. She was one of a large number of women who were vaccinated on that occasion, without, so far as appears, a word of objection from any of them. They all indicated by their conduct that they desired to avail themselves of the provisions made for their benefit. There was nothing in the conduct of the plaintiff to indicate to the surgeon that she did not wish to obtain a card which would save her from detention at quarantine, and to be vaccinated, if necessary, for that [275] purpose. Viewing his conduct in the light of the circumstances, it was lawful; and there was no evidence tending to show that it was not. The ruling of the court on this part of the case was correct.

      14

      The plaintiff contends that, if it was lawful for the surgeon to vaccinate her, the vaccination, as alleged in the second count, was negligently performed. "There was no evidence of want of care or precaution by the defendant in the selection of the surgeon, or in the procuring of the virus or vaccine matter." Unless there was evidence that the surgeon was negligent in performing the operation, and unless the defendant is liable for this negligence, the plaintiff must fail on the second count. Whether there was any evidence of negligence of the surgeon, we need not inquire, for we are of opinion that the defendant is not liable for his want of care in performing surgical operations. The only ground on which it is argued that the defendant is liable for his negligence is, that he is a servant engaged in the defendant's business, and subject to its control. We think this argument is founded on a mistaken construction of the duty imposed on the defendant by law. By the act of Congress of August 2, 1882, § 5, it is provided that "every steamship or other vessel carrying or bringing emigrant passengers, or passengers other than cabin passengers, exceeding fifty in number, shall carry a duly qualified and competent surgeon or medical practitioner, who shall be rated as such in the ship's articles, and who shall be provided with surgical instruments, medical comforts, and medicines proper and necessary for diseases and accidents incident to sea voyages, and for the proper medical treatment of such passengers during the voyage, and with such articles of food and nourishment as may be proper and necessary for preserving the health of infants and young children; and the services of such surgeon or medical practitioner shall be promptly given, in any case of sickness or disease, to any of the passengers, or to any infant or young child of any such passengers, who may need his services. For a violation of either of the provisions of this section the master of the vessel shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding two hundred and fifty dollars."

      15

      Under this statute it is the duty of ship-owners to provide a competent surgeon, whom the passengers may employ if they [276] choose, in the business of healing their wounds and curing their diseases. The law does not put the business of treating sick passengers into the charge of common carriers, and make them responsible for the proper management of it. The work which the physician or surgeon does in such cases is under the control of the passengers themselves. It is their business, not the business of the carrier. They may employ the ship's surgeon, or some other physician or surgeon who happens to be on board, or they may treat themselves, if they are sick, or may go without treatment if they prefer; and if they employ the surgeon, they may determine how far they will submit themselves to his directions, and what of his medicines they will take and what reject, and whether they will submit to a surgical operation or take the risk of going without it. The master or owners of the ship cannot interfere in the treatment of the medical officer when he attends a passenger. He is not their servant, engaged in their business and subject to their control as to his mode of treatment. They do their whole duty if they employ a duly qualified and competent surgeon and medical practitioner, and supply him with all necessary and proper instruments, medicines, and medical comforts, and have him in readiness for such passengers as choose to employ him. This is the whole requirement of the statute of the United States applicable to such cases, and if, by the nature of their undertaking to transport passengers by sea, they are under a liability at the common law to make provision for their passengers in this respect, that liability is no greater. It is quite reasonable that the owners of a steamship used in the transportation of passengers should be required by law to provide a competent person to whom sick passengers can apply for medical treatment, and when they have supplied such a person, it would be unreasonable to hold them responsible for all the particulars of his treatment, when he is engaged in the business of other persons in regard to which they are powerless to interfere.

      16

      The reasons on which it is held, in the courts of the United States and of Massachusetts, that the owners are liable for the negligence of a pilot in navigating the ship, even though he is appointed by public agencies, and the master has no voice in the selection of him, do not apply to this case. The China, 7 Wall. 53, 67. Yates v. Brown, 8 Pick. 23. The pilot is en [277] gaged in the navigation of the ship, for which, on grounds of public policy, the owners should be held responsible. The business is theirs, and they have certain rights of control in regard to it. They may determine when and how it shall be undertaken, and the master may displace the pilot for certain causes. But in England it has been held that even in such cases the owners are not liable. Carruthers v. Sydebotham, 4 M. & S. 98. The Protector, 1 W. Robinson, 45. The Maria, 1 W. Robinson, 95.

      17

      The view which we have taken of this branch of the case is fully sustained by a unanimous judgment of the Court of Appeals of New York, in Laubheim v. De Koninglyke Stoomboot Co. 107 N.Y. 228. See also Secord v. St. Paul, Minneapolis, & Manitoba Railway, 18 Fed. Rep. 221; McDonald v. Massachusetts General Hospital, 120 Mass. 432. We are of opinion that on both parts of the case the rulings at the trial were correct.

      18

      The evidence which was excepted to, consisting of the printed quarantine regulations above referred to, and of testimony that only the steerage passengers holding a surgeon's certificate were allowed to land, all others being vaccinated by the port physician or detained at quarantine, was rightly admitted.

      19

      Exceptions overruled.

      20

      VOL. 154. 18

  • 2 The Spectrum Between Subjective and Objective

    • 2.1 Leichtman v. WLW Jacor Communications, Inc.--"The Smoke in the Face Case"

      Should a smoker's license to freely blow his smoke be limited by the sensitivity of non-smokers?

      Notes: Plaintiff—a known anti-smoking advocate—was invited to appear on a radio talk show to talk about the harmful effects of smoking and breathing secondhand smoke. During the show, one of the hosts lit a cigar and repeatedly blew smoke directly into the plaintiff’s face.
      1
      92 Ohio App.3d 232
      2
      634 N.E.2d 697, 46 A.L.R.5th 939
      3
      LEICHTMAN, Appellant,
      v.
      WLW JACOR COMMUNICATIONS, INC. et al., Appellees.
      4
      No. C-920922.
      5
      Court of Appeals of Ohio, First District, Hamilton County.
      6
      Decided Jan. 26, 1994.
      7

      [634 N.E.2d 698] [92 Ohio App.3d 233] Kircher, Robinson, Cook, Newman & Welch and Robert B. Newman, Cincinnati, for appellant.

      8

      Strauss & Troy and William K. Flynn, Cincinnati, for appellees WLW Jacor Communications, Inc. and William Cunningham.

      9

      Waite, Schneider, Bayless & Chesley, Stanley M. Chesley and Paul M. DeMarco, Cincinnati, for appellee Andy Furman.

      10
      [92 Ohio App.3d 234] PER CURIAM.
      11

      The plaintiff-appellant, Ahron Leichtman, appeals from the trial court's order dismissing his complaint against the defendants-appellees, WLW Jacor Communications ("WLW"), William Cunningham and Andy Furman, for battery, invasion of privacy, and a violation of Cincinnati Bd. of Health Reg. No. 00083. In his single assignment of error, Leichtman contends that his complaint was sufficient to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and, therefore, the trial court was in error when it granted the defendants' Civ.R. 12(B)(6) motion. We agree in part.

      12

      In his complaint, Leichtman claims to be "a nationally known" antismoking advocate. Leichtman alleges that, on the date of the Great American Smokeout, he was invited to appear on the WLW Bill Cunningham radio talk show to discuss the harmful effects of smoking and breathing secondary smoke. He also alleges that, while he was in the studio, Furman, another WLW talk-show host, lit a cigar and repeatedly blew smoke in Leichtman's face "for the purpose of causing physical discomfort, humiliation and distress."

      13

      Under the rules of notice pleading, Civ.R. 8(A)(1) requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." When construing a complaint for failure to state a claim, under Civ.R. 12(B)(6), the court assumes that the factual allegations on the face of the complaint are true. O'Brien v. Univ. Community Tenants Union, Inc. (1975), 42 Ohio St.2d 242, 71 O.O.2d 223, 327 N.E.2d 753, syllabus. For the court to grant a motion to dismiss, "it must appear beyond doubt from the complaint that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts entitling him to recovery." Id. A court cannot dismiss a complaint under Civ.R. 12(B)(6) merely because it doubts the plaintiff will prevail. Slife v. Kundtz Properties, Inc. (1974), 40 Ohio App.2d 179, 69 O.O.2d 178, 318 N.E.2d 557. Because it is so easy for the pleader to satisfy the standard of Civ.R. 8(A), few complaints are subject to dismissal. Id. at 182, 69 O.O.2d at 180, 318 N.E.2d at 560.

      14

      Leichtman contends that Furman's intentional act constituted a battery. The Restatement of the Law 2d, Torts (1965), states:

      15

      "An actor is subject to liability to another for battery if

      "(a) he acts intending to cause a harmful or offensive contact with the person of the other * * *, and

      "(b) a harmful contact with the person of the other directly or indirectly results[; or][1]

      [92 Ohio App.3d 235] "(c) an offensive contact with the person of the other directly or indirectly results."[2] (Footnote added.)

      16

      [634 N.E.2d 699] In determining if a person is liable for a battery, the Supreme Court has adopted the rule that "[c]ontact which is offensive to a reasonable sense of personal dignity is offensive contact." Love v. Port Clinton (1988), 37 Ohio St.3d 98, 99, 524 N.E.2d 166, 167. It has defined "offensive" to mean "disagreeable or nauseating or painful because of outrage to taste and sensibilities or affronting insultingness." State v. Phipps (1979), 58 Ohio St.2d 271, 274, 12 O.O.3d 273, 275, 389 N.E.2d 1128, 1131. Furthermore, tobacco smoke, as "particulate matter," has the physical properties capable of making contact. R.C. 3704.01(B) and 5709.20(A); Ohio Adm.Code 3745-17.

      17

      As alleged in Leichtman's complaint, when Furman intentionally blew cigar smoke in Leichtman's face, under Ohio common law, he committed a battery. No matter how trivial the incident, a battery is actionable, even if damages are only one dollar. Lacey v. Laird (1956), 166 Ohio St. 12, 1 O.O.2d 158, 139 N.E.2d 25, paragraph two of the syllabus. The rationale is explained by Roscoe Pound in his essay "Liability": "[I]n civilized society men must be able to assume that others will do them no intentional injury--that others will commit no intentioned aggressions upon them." Pound, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Law (1922) 169.

      18

      Other jurisdictions also have concluded that a person can commit a battery by intentionally directing tobacco smoke at another. Richardson v. Hennly (1993), 209 Ga.App. 868, 871, 434 S.E.2d 772, 774-775. We do not, however, adopt or lend credence to the theory of a "smoker's battery," which imposes liability if there is substantial certainty that exhaled smoke will predictably contact a nonsmoker. Ezra, Smoker Battery: An Antidote to Second-Hand Smoke (1990), 63 S.Cal.L.Rev. 1061, 1090. Also, whether the "substantial certainty" prong of [92 Ohio App.3d 236] intent from the Restatement of Torts translates to liability for secondary smoke via the intentional tort doctrine in employment cases as defined by the Supreme Court in Fyffe v. Jeno's, Inc. (1991), 59 Ohio St.3d 115, 570 N.E.2d 1108, paragraph one of the syllabus, need not be decided here because Leichtman's claim for battery is based exclusively on Furman's commission of a deliberate act. Finally, because Leichtman alleges that Furman deliberately blew smoke into his face, we find it unnecessary to address offensive contact from passive or secondary smoke under the "glass cage" defense of McCracken v. Sloan (1979), 40 N.C.App. 214, 217, 252 S.E.2d 250, 252, relied on by the defendants.

      19

      Neither Cunningham nor WLW is entitled to judgment on the battery claim under Civ.R. 12(B)(6). Concerning Cunningham, at common law, one who is present and encourages or incites commission of a battery by words can be equally liable as a principal. Bell v. Miller (1831), 5 Ohio 250; 6 Ohio Jurisprudence 3d (1978) 121-122, Assault, Section 20. Leichtman's complaint states, "At Defendant Cunningham's urging, Defendant Furman repeatedly blew cigar smoke in Plaintiff's face."

      20

      With regard to WLW, an employer is not legally responsible for the intentional torts of its employees that do not facilitate or promote its business. Osborne v. Lyles (1992), 63 Ohio St.3d 326, 329-330, 587 N.E.2d 825, 828-829. However, whether an employer is liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior because its employee is acting within the scope of employment is ordinarily a question of fact. Id. at 330, 587 N.E.2d at 825. Accordingly, Leichtman's claim for battery with the allegations against the three defendants in the second count of the complaint is sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss under Civ.R. 12(B)(6).

      21

      By contrast, the first and third counts of Leichtman's complaint do not state claims upon which relief can be granted. The trial court correctly granted the Civ.R. 12(B)(6) motion as to both counts. In his first count, Leichtman alleged a tortious invasion of his privacy. See, generally, Restatement, supra, at 376, Section 652B, as adopted by Sustin v. Fee (1982), 69 Ohio St.2d 143, 145, 23 O.O.3d 182, 183-184, 431 N.E.2d 992, 993. A claim for invasion of privacy may involve any one of four distinct torts. Prosser, Privacy (1960), 48 Cal.L.Rev. 383. The tort that is relevant here requires some substantial intrusion into a plaintiff's solitude, seclusion, habitation, or affairs that would be highly [634 N.E.2d 700] offensive to a reasonable person. See, e.g., Restatement, supra, at 378-379, Section 652B, Comments a to d; Killilea v. Sears Roebuck & Co. (1985), 27 Ohio App.3d 163, 166, 27 OBR 196, 198-199, 499 N.E.2d 1291, 1294. Leichtman acknowledges that he willingly entered the WLW radio studio to make a public radio appearance with Cunningham, who is known for his blowtorch rhetoric. Therefore, Leichtman's [92 Ohio App.3d 237] allegations do not support his assertion that Furman, Cunningham, or WLW intruded into his privacy.

      22

      In his third count, Leichtman attempts to create a private right of action for violation of Cincinnati Bd. of Health Reg. No. 00083, which makes it illegal to smoke in designated public places. Even if we are to assume, for argument, that a municipal regulation is tantamount to public policy established by a statute enacted by the General Assembly, the regulation has created rights for nonsmokers that did not exist at common law. Bd. of Health Reg., supra, at Sections 00083-7 and 00083-13. Therefore, because sanctions also are provided to enforce the regulation, there is no implied private remedy for its violation. R.C. 3707.99, 3707.48(C); Franklin Cty. Law Enforcement Assn. v. Fraternal Order of Police, Capital City Lodge No. 9 (1991), 59 Ohio St.3d 167, 169, 572 N.E.2d 87, 89-90; Fawcett v. G.C. Murphy & Co. (1976), 46 Ohio St.2d 245, 248-250, 75 O.O.2d 291, 293-294, 348 N.E.2d 144, 147 (superseded by statute on other grounds).

      23

      Arguably, trivial cases are responsible for an avalanche of lawsuits in the courts. They delay cases that are important to individuals and corporations and that involve important social issues. The result is justice denied to litigants and their counsel who must wait for their day in court. However, absent circumstances that warrant sanctions for frivolous appeals under App.R. 23, we refuse to limit one's right to sue. Section 16, Article I, Ohio Constitution states, "All courts shall be open, and every person, for an injury done him in his land, goods, person, or reputation, shall have remedy by due course of law, and shall have justice administered without denial or delay."

      24

      This case emphasizes the need for some form of alternative dispute resolution operating totally outside the court system as a means to provide an attentive ear to the parties and a resolution of disputes in a nominal case. Some need a forum in which they can express corrosive contempt for another without dragging their antagonist through the expense inherent in a lawsuit. Until such an alternative forum is created, Leichtman's battery claim, previously knocked out by the trial judge in the first round, now survives round two to advance again through the courts into round three.

      25

      We affirm the trial court's judgment as to the first and third counts of the complaint, but we reverse that portion of the trial court's order that dismissed the battery claim in the second count of the complaint. This cause is remanded for further proceedings consistent with law on that claim only.

      26

      Judgment accordingly.

      27

      DOAN, P.J., and HILDEBRANDT and GORMAN, JJ., concur.

      28

      [1] Harmful contact: Restatement of the Law 2d, Torts (1965) 25, Section 13, cited with approval in Love v. Port Clinton (1988), 37 Ohio St.3d 98, 99, 524 N.E.2d 166, 167.

      29

      [2] Offensive contact: Restatement, supra, at 30, Section 18. See, generally, Love at 99-100, 524 N.E.2d at 167, in which the court: (1) referred to battery as "intentional, offensive touching"; (2) defined offensive contact as that which is "offensive to a reasonable sense of personal dignity"; and (3) commented that if "an arrest is made by a mere touching * * * the touching is offensive and, unless privileged, is a 'battery.' " Id., 37 Ohio St.3d at 99, 524 N.E.2d at 167, fn. 3. See, also, Schultz v. Elm Beverage Shoppe (1988), 40 Ohio St.3d 326, 328, 533 N.E.2d 349, 352, fn. 2 (citing Restatement, supra, at 22, Chapter 2, Introductory Note), in which the court identified an interest in personality as "freedom from offensive bodily contacts"; Keister v. Gaker (Nov. 8, 1978), Warren App. Nos. 219 and 223, unreported (battery is offensive touching).

    • 2.2 Werth v. Taylor--"The Blood-Transfusion-Refusing Jehovah's Witness"

      Should health care professionals be allowed to administer life-saving, emergency treatment when there is a possibility that the patient would have refused?

      Notes: Plaintiff, a Jehovah’s Witness, underwent severe bleeding following the birth of her twins. Despite knowing that plaintiff’s religious beliefs prohibited blood transfusions, defendant ordered a blood transfusion to avoid her death. Consent could not be obtained at the time from the plaintiff because she was under general anesthesia and her condition was rapidly deteriorating.
      1

      475 N.W.2d 426

      2

       

      3
      Cindy K. WERTH and Donald E. Werth, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
      4
      v.
      5
      Michael V. TAYLOR, M.D., Defendant-Appellee,
      6
      and
      7
      County of Alpena, d/b/a Alpena General Hospital, Alcona Citizens for Health, Inc., d/b/a Alcona Health Center, Cheryl L. Parsons, M.D., C.L. McDougall, M.D., and Mark J. Outman, C.R.N.A., Defendants.
      8

      Docket No. 123785.

      9

      190 Mich.App. 141, 475 N.W.2d 426

      10

      Court of Appeals of Michigan.

      11

      Submitted Jan. 16, 1991, at Lansing.

      12

      Decided July 8, 1991, at 9:05 a.m.

      13

      Released for Publication Oct. 28, 1991.

      14


      [475 N.W.2d 427] [190 MICHAPP 141] Sommers, Schwartz, Silver & Schwartz, P.C. by Stanley S. Schwartz and Richard L. Groffsky, Southfield, for plaintiffs-appellants.

      15

      Stroup, Johnson & Tresidder, P.C. by Charles W. Johnson, Petoskey, for Michael V. Taylor, M.D.

      16

      Before NEFF, P.J., and SHEPHERD and McDONALD, JJ.

      17
      NEFF, Presiding Judge.
      18

      Plaintiffs, Cindy K. Werth and donald [190 MICHAPP 142] E. Werth, appeal as of right from an order of the circuit court granting summary disposition pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(10) in favor of defendant, Michael V. Taylor, M.D. We affirm.

      19
      I
      20

      Plaintiffs filed a civil battery claim against defendant Taylor based on his authorization of a blood transfusion for Cindy Werth despite plaintiffs' refusals. Plaintiffs also filed a medical malpractice claim against Taylor and other defendants. The medical malpractice claim is not the subject of this appeal.

      21

      The facts are not in dispute. Cindy and her husband Donald are Jehovah's Witnesses. It is unquestioned that they are both devoted adherents to the tenets of their chosen faith. According to Cindy Werth's deposition testimony, one of the most deeply held of these tenets is the belief that it is a sin to receive blood transfusions.

      22

      In August 1985, Cindy, the mother of two children, became pregnant with twins. About two months before the expected date of delivery, Cindy went to Alpena General Hospital to preregister. She filled out several forms, including a "Refusal to Permit Blood Transfusion" form. Cindy went into labor on May 8, 1986, and entered Alpena General Hospital on that date. While she was being admitted, Donald signed another "Refusal to Permit Blood Transfusion" form.

      23

      Cindy gave birth to her twins on the evening of May 8, 1986. Following delivery, Cindy was found to be bleeding from her uterus. Around 11:30 p.m., Dr. Cheryl Parsons was called. She performed a pelvic examination and discovered a great deal of clotting and a fair amount of bleeding. Dr. Parsons [190 MICHAPP 143] then discussed performing a dilation of the cervix and curettage of the uterine lining (D & C). As a result, Dr. Parsons began discussing with plaintiffs their refusals of blood transfusions.

      24

      Following this discussion, Cindy was taken to surgery. In the early hours of May 9, 1986, she was placed under general anesthesia, and Dr. Parsons proceeded to perform a D & C. The bleeding, however, continued. Defendant Taylor, an anesthesiologist, was then called to the hospital to examine Cindy. Cindy's blood pressure had risen significantly. At approximately 1:30 a.m., defendant Taylor observed mottling and cooling of the skin peripherally, premature ventricular activity, oozing of crystalloid material from her eyes, and a fairly rapid and significant fall in blood pressure. These observations prompted defendant Taylor to determine that a blood transfusion was medically necessary to preserve Cindy's life. He ordered the transfusion of packed red blood cells, but before the transfusion was given, Dr. Parsons informed him that Cindy was a Jehovah's Witness. Dr. Parsons testified that defendant responded by saying something like "that may be, but she needs the blood." A blood transfusion was then given.

      25

      Plaintiffs thereafter filed their medical malpractice action, alleging negligence by various defendants, including Taylor, and alleging battery against defendant Taylor.

      26

      Defendant Taylor filed a motion for summary disposition pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(10), arguing that because Cindy's refusal was not conscious, competent, contemporaneous, and fully informed, defendant did not commit a battery in deciding to infuse blood. The trial court granted this motion and entered an order dismissing plaintiffs' claim against defendant Taylor.

      27
      [190 MICHAPP 144] II
      28

      Plaintiffs contend that the trial court erred in granting summary disposition where their refusal of a blood transfusion [475 N.W.2d 428] was made deliberately and voluntarily. They also contend that defendant's decision to perform that procedure with knowledge of this express refusal resulted in a battery, as well as a violation of the hospital's promise to honor plaintiffs' religious convictions, and that the potentially life-threatening situation did not alter plaintiffs' conscious, deliberate, and unequivocal refusal. Plaintiffs also claim that the court erred in holding that society's interest in preventing minors from becoming wards of the court could override plaintiffs' religious beliefs.

      29

      Defendant Taylor, on the other hand, contends that the trial court did not err in granting summary disposition, because plaintiffs did not unequivocally refuse the blood transfusion. He claims that, in the face of a life-threatening emergency, without a fully conscious and contemporaneous refusal, his decision to transfuse blood was appropriate and the court did not err in finding an implicit consent to the procedure authorized by him. Defendant Taylor also contends that the state's interest in preserving life authorized him to override plaintiffs' right to refuse blood transfusions on religious grounds. He claims that, while a patient may knowingly decline treatment, the patient has no right to demand inadequate treatment, and the courts will not require that such be committed.

      30
      III
      31

      Summary disposition based on MCR 2.116(C)(10) may be granted where, except for the amount of damages, there is no genuine issue regarding any [190 MICHAPP 145] material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

      32

      A motion for summary disposition under this subrule tests whether there is factual support for a claim. Dumas v. Auto Club Ins. Ass'n, 168 Mich.App. 619, 626, 425 N.W.2d 480 (1988). The party opposing the motion has the burden of showing that a genuine issue of disputed fact exists. Pantely v. Garris, Garris & Garris, P.C., 180 Mich.App. 768, 773, 447 N.W.2d 864 (1989). Giving the benefit of any reasonable doubt to the nonmovant, the court must determine whether a record might be developed which will leave open an issue upon which reasonable minds could differ. Dumas, supra. All inferences are to be drawn in favor of the nonmovant. Dagen v. Hastings Mutual Ins. Co., 166 Mich.App. 225, 229, 420 N.W.2d 111 (1987). Before judgment may be granted, the court must be satisfied that it is impossible for the claim asserted to be supported by evidence at trial. Peterfish v. Frantz, 168 Mich.App. 43, 48-49, 424 N.W.2d 25 (1988).

      33
      A
      34

      A competent adult patient has the right to decline any and all forms of medical intervention, including lifesaving or life-prolonging treatment. Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Dep't of Health, --- U.S. ----, 110 S.Ct. 2841, 111 L.Ed.2d 224 (1990); In re Quinlan, 70 N.J. 10, 355 A.2d 647 (1976). See anno: Patient's right to refuse treatment allegedly necessary to sustain life, 93 A.L.R.3d 67. Indeed, the whole concept of informed consent to treatment leads to an inference of its converse--informed refusal of treatment. Put another way, a competent adult may choose to give or withhold consent to medical treatment.

      35

      [190 MICHAPP 146] However, the law implies the consent of an unconscious patient to medical procedures needed to preserve the patient's life. Delahunt v. Finton, 244 Mich. 226, 229, 221 N.W. 168 (1928). See alsoYoung v. Oakland Gen. Hosp., 175 Mich.App. 132, 139, 437 N.W.2d 321 (1989). If a physician treats or operates on a patient without consent, he has committed an assault and battery and may be required to respond in damages. Id.; Banks v. Wittenberg, 82 Mich.App. 274, 279, 266 N.W.2d 788 (1978). Consent may be expressed or implied. Young, supra; Banks, supra, p. 280, 266 N.W.2d 788. It has been held that consent is implied where an emergency procedure is required and there is no opportunity to obtain actual consent or where the patient seeks treatment or otherwise manifests a willingness to submit to a particular treatment. Young, supra; Banks, supra.

      36
      [475 N.W.2d 429] B
      37

      Here, the trial court determined that Cindy's refusals were made when she was contemplating merely routine elective surgery and not when life-threatening circumstances, were present and concluded that it could not be said that she made the decision to refuse a blood transfusion while in a competent state and while fully aware that death would result from such refusal. The record reflects the unexpected development of a medical emergency requiring blood transfusion to prevent death or serious compromise of the patient's well-being.

      38

      The decision of the trial court is supported by one reached by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in In re Estate of Dorone, 517 Pa. 3, 534 A.2d 452 (1987). In Dorone, the patient was a twenty-two-year-old Jehovah's Witness who required a blood transfusion during a cranial operation to [190 MICHAPP 147] relieve an acute subdural hematoma. Without the operation or transfusion, death was imminent. The patient was unconscious, and his parents refused consent to the blood transfusion. The court overruled the parents' refusal, stating:

      39

      Turning to the ultimate decisions the judge rendered, we feel that they were absolutely required under the facts he had before him. Those facts established that medical intervention, which necessarily included blood transfusions, could preserve Mr. Dorone's life. When evidence of this nature is measured against third party speculation as to what an unconscious patient would want there can be no doubt that medical intervention is required. Indeed, in a situation like the present, where there is an emergency calling for an immediate decision, nothing less than a fully conscious contemporaneous decision by the patient will be sufficient to override evidence of medical necessity. [Id., p. 9, 534 A.2d 452.]

      40

      Here, both plaintiffs signed "Refusal to Permit Blood Transfusion" forms. Following Cindy's delivery of twins, Dr. Parsons discussed these refusals with both plaintiffs. Cindy recalled their conversation as follows:

      41

      She--okay. We told her--she said, "I understand that you're one of Jehovah's Witnesses and that you won't take blood," and Don and I both said, "That's correct." And she said, "You mean to tell me if your wife's dying on the table that you're not going to give her blood?" And we said--Don said, "That's--well, I don't want her to have blood, but I don't want her to die. We want the alternative treatment."

      * * * * * *

      She said there would be no problem. It was a routine D & C, there was no problem with the blood.

      * * * * * *

      [190 MICHAPP 148] The idea of a blood transfusion, she made it sound that it wouldn't even be a problem. Blood wouldn't come into the picture. That's how I understood it.

      42

      Donald also testified regarding the conversation as follows:

      43

      At the time of the consent form, she gave it to my wife and had her look it over and read it, and she said--she acknowledged us as being one of Jehovah's Witnesses, and then she said, "Would you accept blood?" And we replied, "No." And then she made the remark, "Even if she was to die, you'd let her die?"

      And at that point, I questioned, I said, "Well, how serious of a, you know, condition was she?" And the reason why we asked that is because, like I say, in different situations like there are Witnesses who have gone to hospitals, you know, if there was some type of real emergency, a lot of times they're shipped out or flown out. Different ones have gone to Ann Arbor and other places.

      So at that time, I was just kind of questioning, well, how serious was it, you know. First of all, you say it's a routine D & C; then you mention that if she was to die, and so that's why I questioned it, and then she reassured us that there was no problem, nothing to it.

      44

      The following colloquy then occurred between defense counsel and Donald:

      45

      [475 N.W.2d 430] Q. So you never answered the question.

      A. Oh, as far as the idea of dying?

      Q. Yes.

      A. I said no. The answer was no.

      Q. Even if she was to die, you said "No blood."

      A. Right.

      Q. What did your wife say to that?

      [190 MICHAPP 149] A. Well, she was right there and that was her feeling also.

      Q. But you didn't have the feeling that that was part of the problem or a possibility? It was kind of an academic discussion, that she might die?

      A. Well, she said it in a joking manner. It wasn't done as a serious matter. Being with a joking manner, that's why I asked her how serious it was and then she just--"Oh, there's no problem."

      Q. Okay. So you weren't really biting the bullet because it didn't seem to be part of the problem that she was going to die or there was a risk of her dying?

      A. At that point, no.

      46

      Dr. Parsons testified to the conversation as follows:

      47

      I recall discussing with her and her husband the fact that they were Jehovah's Witnesses and that she indicated that this was true. And I said, "Is it true that you do not want any blood transfusions?" She said, "No." He looked at me and said, "Do you think it's that bad?" And I said, "Not right now." And I didn't get any further answer from him in terms of whether he felt that if it became that bad he might change his mind. And I left it at that.

      48

      She also described Donald's response as "wishy-washy."

      49

      Following this discussion, Cindy underwent surgery. She was placed under general anesthesia, and Dr. Parsons performed a D & C. Cindy did not regain consciousness again until after the operation and transfusion of blood were performed. Defendant Taylor testified that he was aware, before deciding to infuse blood, that Cindy was a Jehovah's Witness. No attempt was made to bring Cindy to consciousness in order to obtain her approval, and defendant Taylor testified that this [190 MICHAPP 150] option was "foolhardy." No attempt was made to discuss his decision with Donald because defendant saw nothing to be gained from it. He did not believe Donald could give or deny permission for a blood transfusion.

      50
      C
      51

      We agree with the principle in Dorone that it is the patient's fully informed, contemporaneous decision which alone is sufficient to override evidence of medical necessity. The fact that defendant did not obtain the consent of Cindy's husband does not preclude the granting of summary disposition. It is undisputed that Cindy was unconscious when the critical decision regarding the blood transfusion to avoid her death was being made. Her prior refusals had not been made when her life was hanging in the balance or when it appeared that death might be a possibility if a transfusion were not given. Clearly, her refusals were, therefore, not contemporaneous or informed. Thus, a record could not be developed regarding Cindy's refusal which would leave open an issue upon which reasonable minds could differ.

      52

      Our holding in this case is narrow. Without contemporaneous refusal of treatment by a fully informed, competent adult patient, no action lies for battery and summary disposition was proper.

      53
      D
      54

      Because of our resolution of this case, we need not address the issue whether the trial court erred in holding that the state had a valid interest in preventing Cindy's death.

      55

      Affirmed.

  • 3 Beyond Physical Contact Or The Threat Thereof

    • 3.1 Womack v. Eldridge--"The Distressing Accusation of Molestation"

      Should we hold people accountable for causing severe distress in others, even if no physical contact—or the threat thereof—was involved?

      Notes: The defendant deceitfully took plaintiff's photograph under the guise of conducting an interview with the plaintiff. The photograph was obtained on behalf of defendant's employer—an attorney—who then used the photograph as part of a client's defense in a sexual molestation case. Because the defense tactic implied the plaintiff was the actual molester, plaintiff was dragged into the client's ongoing trial despite lacking any real connection to the case. Plaintiff alleged extreme anxiety, loss of sleep, shock, and depression due to his unwarranted involvement in the case.
      1

      210 S.E.2d 145

      2

      215 Va. 338

      3
      Danny Lee WOMACK
      v.
      Rosalie ELDRIDGE
      4

      Supreme Court of Virginia.

      5

      Dec. 2, 1974.

      6

      [210 S.E.2d 146] William M. McClenny, Amherst (McClenny Associates, Amherst, on brief), for plaintiff in error.

      7

      Wm. Rosenberger, Jr., Lynchburg (Richard E. Spies, Charlottesville, on brief), for defendant in error.

      8

      Before I'ANSON, C.J., and CARRICO, HARRISON, COCHRAN, HARMAN, POFF and COMPTON, JJ.

      9
      I'ANSON, Chief Justice.
      10

      Plaintiff, Danny Lee Womack, instituted this action against the defendant, Rosalie Eldridge, to recover compensatory and punitive damages for mental shock and distress allegedly caused by the defendant's willful, wanton, malicious, fraudulent and deceitful acts and conduct toward him. The question of punitive damages was stricken by the trial court and the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff in the amount of $45,000. The trial court set aside the verdict Non obstante veredicto on the ground that there could be no recovery for emotional distress in the absence [215 Va. 339] of 'physical damage or other bodily harm.' We granted plaintiff a writ of error. Defendant did not assign cross-error, although the record shows she excepted to many rulings in the court below and several of them are relied upon in her brief and argument before us.

      11

      Plaintiff assigned numerous errors, but the controlling question is whether one who by extreme and outrageous conduct intentionally or recklessly causes severe emotional distress to another is subject to liability for such emotional distress absent any bodily injury.

      12

      The evidence shows that defendant had been engaged in the business of investigating cases for attorneys for many years. She was employed by Richard E. Seifert and his attorney to obtain a photograph of the plaintiff to be used as evidence in the trial of Seifert, who was charged with sexually molesting two young boys. On May 27, 1970, about 8 a.m., defendant went to plaintiff's home and upon gaining admittance told him that she was a Mrs. Jackson from the newspaper and that she was writing an article on Skateland. Defendant asked plaintiff, who was a coach at Skateland, if she could take a picture of him for publication with the article, and he readily consented.

      13

      Shortly thereafter defendant delivered the photograph to Seifert's counsel while he was representing Seifert at his preliminary hearing. Seifert's counsel showed plaintiff's photograph to the two young boys and asked if he was the one who molested them. When they replied that he was not, counsel withdrew the photograph and put it in his briefcase. However, the Commonwealth's Attorney then asked to see the photograph and requested additional information about the person shown in it. Defendant was then called to the stand and she supplied the plaintiff's name and address. Plaintiff's photograph in no way resembled Seifert, and the only excuse given by defendant for taking plaintiff's picture was that he was at Skateland when Seifert was arrested. However, the offenses alleged against Seifert did not occur at Skateland.

      14

      The Commonwealth's Attorney then directed a detective to go to plaintiff's home and bring him to court. The detective told plaintiff that his photograph had been presented in court; that the Commonwealth's Attorney wanted him to appear at the proceedings; and that he could either appear voluntarily then or he would be summoned. Plaintiff agreed to go voluntarily. When [215 Va. 340] called as a witness, plaintiff testified as to the circumstances under [210 S.E.2d 147] which defendant had obtained his photograph. He also said that he had not molested any children and that he knew nothing about the charges against Seifert.

      15

      A police officer questioned plaintiff several times thereafter. Plaintiff was also summoned to appear as a witness before the grand jury but he was not called. However, he was summoned to appear several times at Seifert's trial in the circuit court because of continuances of the cases.

      16

      Plaintiff testified that he suffered great shock, distress and nervousness because of defendant's fraud and deceit and her wanton, willful and malicious conduct in obtaining his photograph and turning it over to Seifert's attorney to be used in court. He suffered great anxiety as to what people would think of him and feared that he would be accused of molesting the boys. He had been unable to sleep while the matter was being investigated. While testifying in the instant case he became emotional and incoherent. Plaintiff's wife also testified that her husband experienced great shock and mental depression from the involvement.

      17

      The precise issue presented on this appeal has not been decided by this court.

      18

      In the recent case of Hughes v. Moore, 214 Va. 27, 31, 197 S.E.2d 214, 219 (1973), where we also clarified Bowles v. May, 159 Va. 419, 437--438, 166 S.E. 550, 557 (1932), we held that when conduct is merely negligent, not willful, wanton or vindictive, and physical impact is lacking, there can be no recovery for emotional disturbance alone. However, where emotional disturbance is accompanied by physical injury there may be a recovery for negligent conduct, notwithstanding the lack of physical impact, provided the injured party proves by clear and convincing evidence a causal connection between the negligent act, the emotional disturbance and the physical injury.

      19

      We have also said that a recovery is permitted for mental distress and physical injuries unaccompanied by actual physical contact where the injuries were caused by a willful, intentional tort. Moore v. Jefferson Hospital, Inc., 208 Va. 438, 441, 158 S.E.2d 124, 127 (1967).

      20

      The case of Awtrey v. Norfolk & W. Ry. Co., 121 Va. 284, 93 S.E. 570 (1917), relied upon by the defendant, is distinguishable on the facts from the present case. There, liability was based on [215 Va. 341] a negligent wrongful act; here, liability is based on willful, wanton, fraudulent and deceitful conduct.

      21

      Courts from other jurisdictions are not in accord on whether there can be a recovery for emotional distress unaccompanied by physical injury. However, most of the courts which have been presented with the question in recent years have held that there may be a recovery against one who by his extreme and outrageous conduct intentionally or recklessly causes another severe emotional distress.[1] Annot., 64 A.L.R.2d 100, § 8 at 120, and the many cases there cited.

      22

      The Restatement (Second) of Torts, § 46 at 71, provides:

      23

      '(1) One who by extreme and outrageous conduct intentionally or recklessly causes severe emotional distress to another is subject to liability for such emotional distress, and if bodily harm to the other results from it, for such bodily harm.'

      24

      In comment (i) to the Restatement it is expressly stated that this rule also covers a situation where the actor knows that distress is certain, or substantially certain, to result from his conduct.

      25

      A great majority of cases allowing recovery for such a cause of action do so when the act was intentional and the wrongdoer desired the emotional distress or knew or should have known that it would likely result. Aetna Life Insurance Co. v. Burton, [210 S.E.2d 148] 104 Ind.App. 576, 580, 12 N.E.2d 360, 362 (1938); Kirksey v. Jernigan, 45 So.2d 188, 189 (Fla.1950); Boyle v. Chandler, Del.Super., 3 W.W.Harr 323, 33 Del. 323, 329, 138 A. 273, 276 (1927); Samms v. Eccles, 11 Utah 2d 289, 293, 358 P.2d 344, 346--347 (1961); Prosser on Torts, 'Infliction of Mental Distress,' § 12 at 60 (4th ed. 1971).

      26

      In Samms, the Supreme Court of Utah aptly stated:

      27

      '. . . (T)he best considered view recognizes an action for severe emotional distress, though not accompanied by bodily impact or physical injury, where the defendant intentionally engaged in some conduct toward the plaintiff, (a) with the purpose of inflicting emotional distress, Or, (b) where any reasonable person would have known that such would result; and his actions are of such a nature as to be considered outrageous and intolerable in that they offend against the [215 Va. 342] generally accepted standards of decency and morality.' (Footnote omitted; emphasis added.) 11 Utah 2d at 293, 358 P.2d at 346--347.

      28

      We adopt the view that a cause of action will lie for emotional distress, unaccompanied by physical injury, provided four elements are shown: One, the wrongdoer's conduct was intentional or reckless. This element is satisfied where the wrongdoer had the specific purpose of inflicting emotional distress or where he intended his specific conduct and knew or should have known that emotional distress would likely result. Two, the conduct was outrageous and intolerable in that it offends against the generally accepted standards of decency and morality. This requirement is aimed at limiting frivolous suits and avoiding litigation in situations where only bad manners and mere hurt feelings are involved. Three, there was a causal connection between the wrongdoer's conduct and the emotional distress. Four, the emotional distress was severe.

      29

      'It is for the court to determine, in the first instance, whether the defendant's conduct may reasonably be regarded as so extreme and outrageous as to permit recovery, or whether it is necessarily so. Where reasonable men may differ, it is for the jury, subject to the control of the court, to determine whether, in the particular case, the conduct has been sufficiently extreme and outrageous to result in liability.' Restatement (Second) of Torts, Supra, at 77.

      30

      In the case at bar, reasonable men may disagree as to whether defendant's conduct was extreme and outrageous and whether plaintiff's emotional distress was severe. Thus, the questions presented were for a jury to determine. A jury could conclude from the evidence presented that defendant willfully, recklessly, intentionally and deceitfully obtained plaintiff's photograph for the purpose of permitting her employers to use it as a defense in a criminal case without considering the effect it would have on the plaintiff. There is nothing in the evidence that even suggests that plaintiff may have been involved in the child molesting cases. The record shows that the only possible excuse for involving the plaintiff was that Seifert was arrested at the place where plaintiff was employed. A reasonable person would or should have recognized the likelihood of the serious mental distress that would be caused in involving an innocent person in child molesting cases. If the two boys had hesitated in answering [215 Va. 343] that the man in the photograph was not the one who had molested them, it is evident that the finger of suspicion would have been pointed at the plaintiff.

      31

      Defendant contended in her brief, and in oral argument before us, that the trial court erred in granting instruction 1--A in that it was contradictory and misled the jury; that the amount of damages fixed by the jury was excessive; and that the action of the Commonwealth's Attorney in causing plaintiff's name to be revealed was an intervening cause which absolved her of any liability.

      32

      [210 S.E.2d 149] We will not consider those contentions because defendant did not assign cross-error. Beasley v. Barnes, 201 Va. 593, 598, 113 S.E.2d 62, 65 (1960); Blue Ridge Poultry and Egg Co., Inc. v. Clark, 211 Va. 139, 141, 176 S.E.2d 323, 325 (1970); Rule 5:7, Rules of Court.

      33

      For the reasons stated, the judgment of the court below is reversed, the jury verdict reinstated, and final judgment hereby entered for the plaintiff.

      34

      Judgment reversed, jury verdict reinstated, and final judgment.

      35

      [1]  Our research reveals that at least 26 jurisdictions permit such causes of action, while apparently 7 do not.

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