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Author Topic: Torts hypo  (Read 2062 times)

T00083

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Torts hypo
« on: September 03, 2006, 06:14:14 AM »
Lets say John is a troubled individual, and he goes out into a forest preserve one day, and on a frequently un-used walking trail, digs a holeand covers it with leaves, in order to see if someone would fall into it.  Three weeks later Luke who he doesn't know, falls in.  Can Luke sue for battery?   

The issue I'm looking at really is if he had the intent since he didn't specifically target Luke, and theres no sub. certainty.

holler21

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Re: Torts hypo
« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2006, 08:42:53 AM »
This sounds like one of those "it depends" answers.

My argument for Luke is that John had every reason to believe that someone who stepped on the leaves would fall into the hole.  Remember transferred intent - "intent follows the bullet" - even though John didn't specifically intend for Luke to suffer the injury, he can still be liable becuase it matters not who suffers the injury, just that the act was intended to cause an injury, period.

I'm a 1L so take my answer for what it's worth.  And I apologize if my answer is somewhat disorganized...it's 840 am, sorry.

Hope that helps.

robmelone

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Re: Torts hypo
« Reply #2 on: September 03, 2006, 09:36:33 AM »
Hmmmm. . .where did I put my torts outline?

Robhttp://www.cafepress.com/lawthug

slacker

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Re: Torts hypo
« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2006, 09:51:26 AM »
I found the second restatement of torts.

8A. Intent

The word "intent" is used throughout the Restatement of this Subject to denote that the actor desires to cause consequences of his act, or that he believes that the consequences are substantially certain to result from it.

The comments in the 3rd restatement of torts separate out these two elements more, and in the comment further elaborates that intent to cause action becomes more vague with greater time or a greater number of potential victims.

I agree with the "it depends" at this point. You'll be able to revisit this thought when you get to negligence.

J D

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Re: Torts hypo
« Reply #4 on: September 03, 2006, 10:32:14 AM »
This may be a stupid thing to bring up, but if battery deals with harmful or offensive or non-consensual "touching" or "contact," does setting a booby trap for someone else to stumble into (when you are nowhere around) count as "contact" or "touching"?  I remember that it is considered "contact" if you touch anything connected to the plaintiff, like anything they happen to be holding at the time (e.g., a camera, an umbrella).  But I don't know if it works in reverse: can you consider the booby trap to be an extension of the tortfeasor's person, which comes in contact with the plaintiff?  It sounds like that should be the case, and regardless, some kind of tort has certainly been committed, if not battery, but I'm just curious.

We didn't cover intentional torts all that much in my class.  The rationale is that most of what you're likely to encounter in the tort system is negligence or products liability, since intentional tortfeasors tend to be judgment-proof: they're usually either broke and/or incarcerated.
"I never think of the future.  It comes soon enough."--Albert Einstein

hotdiggity

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Re: Torts hypo
« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2006, 10:57:55 AM »
Harmful or offensive contact can come about directly or indirectly, so direct is simple, you're just punching someone etc.  Indirect is what we are talking about here.  So lets look at the elements. Intent, + harmful or offensive contact +  causation = damages.

Intent is described as a volitional action where the actor intended the harmful or offensive contact OR was it was substantially certain it would occur. 

I would think that digging a trap for someone, even if it was a remote and slightly used trail would create a substantial certainty someone would fall in it.  Plus he intended the damages.  They were indirectly caused by the actor.  Indirect damages are easier to figure out if you say put a laxative in someone's drink unknowingly.  That's a pretty obvious harmful contact.

This is a battery. He acted with malice so he'd be liable for actual and punitive damages.  As well as criminal sanctions if the state chose to proceeed.

T00083

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Re: Torts hypo
« Reply #6 on: September 03, 2006, 11:15:28 AM »
I'll tell you this right now.  There is no way that it is substantially certain.  Sub. Certainty is so close to certainty that you can't even tell the difference.  You cannot be certain that someone would fall into the trap.  Suppose an animal falls in, suppose its in the mountains and theres a rock slide which fills in the hole.  Suppose that some guy walks by with his great dane and is playing fetch with a large stick.  The stick lands on the trap and he sees its a hole so he fills it in.  In addition, malice doesnt matter.  Its motive.  Without being able to pin point intent, theres no prima facie case.

     Also, it can't be transffered intent.  You must have an intended victim first, then that intent transfers to the victim.  In this case there is no intended victim... 
     Again, if intent is subjective then we could say if he dug it as a trap for an animal then it would be negligence.  Here though the facts say he did it for a human being.  So thats where I'm lost.  Any more thoughts?

J D

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Re: Torts hypo
« Reply #7 on: September 03, 2006, 11:26:45 AM »
Well, in contracts, the offer has to be made to a specific person, but you don't necessarily have to know who that person is beforehand when the offer is made, so long as you have some way of identifying them when the time of acceptance comes.  For example, "first come, first served." 

I think the same principle could apply here.  He intends for a human person to fall into the trap.  He doesn't know at the time which human person it will be, but that doesn't matter.  The human will be identified once he falls in.  Of course, one might object that such a principle means the tortfeasor could be liable to almost anyone.  The response is a simple, "so what?"  Maybe that's a good rule in this case because we generally don't want people setting booby traps just for fun, lest someone gets hurt.
"I never think of the future.  It comes soon enough."--Albert Einstein

T00083

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Re: Torts hypo
« Reply #8 on: September 03, 2006, 11:41:08 AM »
Look, there are a lot of things I know, and even more that I don't know.  Which is why I posted this hypo.  I do however know with Substantial Certainty that you cannot apply pricipals from Contracts to Torts.  I mean, the definition of intent differs between intentional torts.  How are you going to apply a contracts principal here?

J D

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Re: Torts hypo
« Reply #9 on: September 03, 2006, 11:54:03 AM »
Lawyers reason by analogy, and one often finds that the various areas of private law (contracts, property, torts, etc.) do bump up against each other quite a bit (think about malpractice, for example, or products liability and warranty law).  Rather than just glibly saying, "that principle belongs to contracts, it can't be used here," the better response is to try to figure out what about the principle makes it inapplicable to this situation.  Why would it be that the principle works great for offer and acceptance, but not for intent, if the issue underlying both problems is the identification of the offeree or of the victim?  Why does the fiction work in one instance but not in the other?  If one can't come up with a distinction, I don't think there would be any problem in applying the principle to a different situation, and I'm not sure most most judges would see a problem either.
"I never think of the future.  It comes soon enough."--Albert Einstein