Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Taylor v. Barwick case brief

Taylor v. Barwick
1997 WL 527970 (Del. Super. Ct. 1997)
Tort Law

PROCEDURAL HISTORY: Plaintiff inmate and defendant guard each filed motions for summary judgment with the court (Delaware), in the inmates' pro se action for battery.

- The inmate alleged that a guard poked him with a tree branch when the inmate was on his way into the kitchen.
-The guard admitted the contact, but contended it was accidental.
-After four years, the inmate had produced no evidence of any injury or harm for which compensatory damages could be awarded. The court denied the inmate's motion for summary judgment, and denied in part the guard's motion for summary judgment as to the entire cause of action for battery. The court granted the guard's motion in part, with regard to the issue of damages.


Since a battery was essentially an unpermitted touching, and actual harm was not a necessary element of the proof of a battery, the court could not dismiss the action outright.

-For a bodily contact to be offensive, it must offend a reasonable sense of personal dignity.In order for a contact to 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.

The court held that on the issue of damages, the inmate had been given ample time to produce evidence of injury and had failed to do so.
-A technical battery, where no injury was involved, justified only nominal damages. With there being no possibility of compensatory damages, the court held that punitive damage would also be improper as a matter of law.

CONCLUSION: The court denied the inmate's motion for summary judgment. The court denied the guard's motion for summary judgment in part, but granted it on the issue of damages. The court ruled that the inmate would be entitled to, if anything, only nominal damages.

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