Prince’s Briefcase: Spivey v. Battaglia (Hicks Torts)

Hicks Torts: Intentional Torts

Here is a case from my Torts class which explains the concept of an intentional tort or an offensive and harmful contact against an individual. Even an unsolicited hug is viewed as a tort under the law.

Case Name, Citation Number, Author
Spivey v. Battaglia 258 So. 2d 815, 1972 Fla.

prince's briefcaseFacts
–Petitioner (Spivey) and Respondent (Battaglia) are employees of the same factory, Battaglia Fruit Co.
–Battaglia knows Spivey to be an extremely shy person
–Battaglia puts his arm around Spivey and pulled her head towards him: a “friendly unsolicited hug” occurs
–Resulting from the hug, Spivey suffered a sharp pain in the back of her neck and ear, and another sharp pain in the base of her skull.
–Spivey became paralyzed on the left side of her face and mouth.

Did Battaglia’s actions constitute an Assault & Battery? Or negligence as a matter of law?

Negligence is an unintentional act, therefore no assault or battery
Assault and Battery is an intentional act, therefore assault and battery
For Definition of Assault and Battery go to Notes

Battaglia’s actions constituted as a Negligence tort.
Defendant (Battaglia) must foresee the injuries from an unsolicited hug.
A reasonable person must foresee the physical injury as substantially certain from an unsolicited hug. Therefore, Battaglia did not commit an assault or battery on Spivey–he could not reasonably foresee the bizarre physical injuries from a hug.

Assault: The intent to cause an apprehension (fear) in the present imminent danger with reasonable belief (substantial certainty) that you will cause an offensive contact. BUT NO CONTACT RESULTING.

Battery: The intent to cause a harmful or offensive contact, or an imminent apprehension of such contact, which the harmful or offensive contact the person directly or indirectly results.

Prince’s Takeaway
The court is wrong in my opinion because Battaglia reasonably knew that Spivey was extremely shy, thereby causing her to have an immediate apprehension with substantial certainty that something bad will happen to her. An example is when President George Bush had a shoe thrown at him in Iraq.

He substantially knew that the actor was going to hit him, causing him to experience an immediate apprehension of the risks from his act therefore “ducking the shoe.” This was an act of assault and not battery because he was not hit by the shoe. However why this example is like Spivey is because both actors knew the victim’s uncomfortable tendencies from their unwanted and “unsolicited” action. Therefore it should be an assault and not negligence. *You could add Battery to Spivey because it can be foreseen by a reasonable person that some injury would result from that “unsolicited hug” by Battaglia–he could have poked Spivey’s eye out!

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