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Can an injury in a sports contest constitute a battery?

Most injuries in sports contests—even if caused by direct contact from an opposed player—would not constitute a battery. The theory is that a sport participant consents to performing in sporting events and, therefore, assumes the risk of injury when playing. However, if a participant intentionally engages in egregious conduct that flouts the rules of the sport, then he or she can be liable for battery.

For example, a federal district court refused to dismiss a lawsuit by former Denver Broncos defensive back Dale Hackbart, who was struck with a forearm to the head by Cincinnati Bengals running back Charles Clark, while Hackbart was kneeling on the ground.

Are punching and kicking the only acts that are regarded as battery?

No, battery is when someone acts intending to cause any harmful or offensive contact with another person. This would include spitting, throwing, and hitting

When playing contact sports, it is expected that injuries will occur. However, egregiously violent behavior may be grounds for charges of assault and battery (iStock).

When playing contact sports, it is expected that injuries will occur. However, egregiously violent behavior may be grounds for charges of assault and battery (iStock).

someone with a water balloon or other object, kissing someone without their consent, or touching them in an inappropriate or unwelcome way.

Does a person have a tort claim if they are wrongfully detained for shoplifting in a major department store?

Perhaps; the person might have a tort claim for false imprisonment, depending on the particular factual circumstances. False imprisonment is an intentional tort that occurs when one person intentionally confines another person against his or her will. Many states, however, have shopkeepers' privilege laws, which give merchants immunity from civil liability if they reasonably detain persons for a reasonable amount of time and if they have a reasonable belief that the person may be shoplifting. Much of this will depend on the wording of the state's shopkeeper privilege law.

For example, Arizona's laws provides:

A merchant, or a merchant's agent or employee, with reasonable cause, may detain on the premises in a reasonable manner and for a reasonable time any person who is suspected of shoplifting as prescribed in subsection A of this section for questioning or summoning a law enforcement officer.

Ohio's law reads similarly:

A merchant, or an employee or agent of a merchant, who has probable cause to believe that items offered for sale by a mercantile establishment have been unlawfully taken by a person, may, for the purposes set forth in division (C) of this section, detain the person in a reasonable manner for a reasonable length of time within the mercantile establishment or its immediate vicinity.

Both these laws require the merchants or the merchant's employees to have some sort of reasonable belief ("reasonable cause" in Arizona and "probable cause" in Ohio) that the person is a shoplifter. Both laws also require that store employees detain the person for a reasonable amount of time.

What is intentional infliction of emotional distress?

Intentional infliction of emotional distress, sometimes called outrageous conduct, refers to intentional or reckless conduct of an extreme and outrageous nature that causes another person to suffer severe emotional distress. The conduct complained of must be beyond the pale of decency such that it would cause a reasonable person to exclaim: "That's an outrage" or "That's outrageous."

For example, the Washington Supreme Court in 2003 upheld a $60,000 jury verdict for intentional infliction of emotional distress in favor of a woman whose former live-in male friend continually harassed her with hundreds of phone calls after the relationship ended. Even though the woman had obtained an order of protection, the man continued a nonstop barrage of phone calls. The man called the woman 640 times at home, 100 times at work and called the homes of several men with whom he thought the woman was having a relationship. He also threatened to kill the woman. The Washington Supreme Court reasoned that this deplorable crossed the line into outrageousness sufficient to justify the jury's verdict.

Another example of outrageous conduct to a reviewing court occurred after a car accident in Georgia. The plaintiff contacted the insurance company of the other driver who was at fault during the accident. The claims examiner allegedly began using a torrent of bad language and racial slurs toward the African-American plaintiff. The court found that the "abusive and obscene" language used by the claims examiner sufficed to constitute intentional infliction of emotional distress.

 
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