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New York Civil Battery

A while back, I wrote a post about what civil battery under California law. This post is going to be the comparable post for New York law. Law school in the US is somewhat generic in that you learn what a given offense (e.g. civil battery) is in the abstract, even though the actual criteria for the offense in the real world will dependent on the state. When I learned about civil battery, for example, I learned it as “a harmful or offense touching either done with subjective desire or knowledge to a substantial certainty”. If you’re thinking that that rolls off the tongue, you’re correct.

When you actually want to sue someone for civil battery in the real world, however, you need more specific criteria than that. In California — as I described in my previous post linked above — the criteria for civil battery can be found in the So v. Shin case (cite: So v. Shin (2013) 212 Cal.Appl.4th 652, 669) as:

  • defendant touched plaintiff, or caused plaintiff to be touched with the intent to harm or offend plaintiff,
  • plaintiff did not consent to the touching,
  • plaintiff was harmed or offended by defendant’s conduct, and
  • a reasonable person in plaintiff’s position would have been offended by the touching.

Under New York law, the comparable criteria for civil battery are:

  • defendant intentionally made bodily contact against the plaintiff,
  • that this contact was harmful or offensive to the plaintiff,
  • that plaintiff did not consent to the contact, and

These criteria are recited in a number of New York state cases including (1) Wende C. v. United Methodist Church (4 NY 3d 293), (2) Gutierrez v. McGrath Management Services, Inc. (152 AD 3d 498), and (3) Laurie Marie M. v. Jeffery T.M. (159 AD 2d 52). These were just the only cases I found from a cursory search and are definitely not the only New York cases out there.

As you can hopefully see, the two definitions of battery are phrased differently, but are fundamentally the same. On a general level, civil battery is the harmful or offensive touching of the plaintiff by defendant resulting in damage and without consent. This “general definition” is what is usually taught in law schools. Depending on where a law student ultimately ends up taking their bar exam and actually practicing law, this general definition is then supplemented by details specific to that jurisdiction.

As always, I hope all of this helped. I’ll remind you as I always do that the above is not meant to be a comprehensive or exhaustive discussion on the topic of civil battery in California or New York. If your situation involves civil battery, please do your own research because the authorities I cite to above may have changed between the time I wrote this post and the time you read it. Per usual, if you have a situation involving civil battery under New York law, please do find a lawyer in your area with whom you can discuss your situation face-to-face. Lastly, as of the date of this post, I do not have a physical office in New York state. As a result, due to New York Judiciary Law section 470, I do not take clients with cases in New York state. However, if you are in need of a referral to an attorney in New York, I am happy to make one if I can.

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Andy Chen

Andy I. Chen is a lawyer licensed to practice law in California and New York. Andy maintains offices in Los Altos, California and Modesto, California. Under the New York Court of Appeals' 2015 decision in Schoenefeld v. State of New York, Andy does not accept cases from those in New York state. He does, however, know many lawyers in New York state and would be happy to make a referral.

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