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Brooklyn Technical High School
Randy J. Asher, Principal
29 Fort Greene Place ∙ Brooklyn, New York ∙ 11217 ∙ Telephone: (718) 804 - 6400 ∙ Fax: (718) 804 - 6535 ∙ www.bths.edu
Name:
Date:
Directions: Indicate whether there is intent in the following scenarios:
1. Vosburg v. Putney, 80 Wis. 523, 50 N.W. 403 (Wisc. 1891).
Facts:
Vosburg (P) suffered an injury to his leg just below the knee. A few days later while the injury was still
healing, a classmate named Putney (D) kicked him lightly in the same spot. Vosburg did not feel the kick
immediately. He later felt pain in the leg and underwent surgery when the injury continued to deteriorate.
Vosburg lost the use of the injured leg and brought tort claims against Putney for common law battery.
Issue:
Did the defendant have intent despite the unforeseen consequences resulting from the act?
Yes. The act is distinguished from the consequences.
A defendant in an action for battery is liable for damages arising from unforeseen injuries. The intention to
do harm is the essence of the wrongful act. The wrongdoer is liable for all injuries resulting directly from
the wrongful act whether or not they were foreseeable. Vosburg must show either that the intention was
unlawful or that Putney is at fault. If the act is unlawful, the intention is unlawful. The court ruled that in
this case the act was unlawful since it took place during class rather than on the playground and Putney
was liable for all personal injuries sustained as a consequence of his wrongful act.
Issue:
If P had did not know that his actions would constitute a tort or a crime, can the court hold that P had
intent?
Yes. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.
It is irrelevant that the defendant did not know that the actions would constitute a tort.
2. Consider McGuire v. Almy, 8 N.E.2d 760 (Mass 1937)
Facts:
McGuire (P) was a registered nurse and had been employed to care for Almy (D), an insane person, on a 24
hour basis. McGuire knew that Almy, who was kept in a locked room, was insane but otherwise in good
physical condition. McGuire had been taking care of Almy for 18 months when Almy had a violent attack.
Almy broke furniture and warned McGuire not to enter the room or she would be killed. P entered the
room to prevent D from hurting herself. P approached D who held a piece of broken furniture over her head
and P was injured.
P sued D and the jury entered a verdict in P’s favor and the court entered judgment in P’s favor and
awarded damages for tort assault and battery.
Issue: Can an insane person have “intent” to commit a tort?
Yes. Insane people are liable for their torts.
An insane person is judged by the same standards as a normal person. The intent to do the act is the key to
a battery and if an insane person can form an intent to do an act he can be liable. The insane person must
be capable of forming that intent and must have actually acted upon that intent. The fact that an insane
person cannot control his acts is not a defense.
Notes: There are some exceptions to the general rule that insanity is not a defense to intentional torts.
Insanity has been ruled to prevent liability for certain torts that require a showing of malicious intent such
as defamation and deceit.
Brooklyn Technical High School
Randy J. Asher, Principal
29 Fort Greene Place ∙ Brooklyn, New York ∙ 11217 ∙ Telephone: (718) 804 - 6400 ∙ Fax: (718) 804 - 6535 ∙ www.bths.edu
Name:
Date:
Directions: Indicate whether there is intent in the following scenarios:
1. Vosburg v. Putney, 80 Wis. 523, 50 N.W. 403 (Wisc. 1891).
Facts:
Vosburg (P) suffered an injury to his leg just below the knee. A few days later while the injury was still
healing, a classmate named Putney (D) kicked him lightly in the same spot. Vosburg did not feel the kick
immediately. He later felt pain in the leg and underwent surgery when the injury continued to deteriorate.
Vosburg lost the use of the injured leg and brought tort claims against Putney for common law battery.
Issue:
Did the defendant have intent despite the unforeseen consequences resulting from the act?
Issue:
If P had did not know that his actions would constitute a tort or a crime, can the court hold that P had
intent?
2. Consider McGuire v. Almy, 8 N.E.2d 760 (Mass 1937)
Facts:
McGuire (P) was a registered nurse and had been employed to care for Almy (D), an insane person, on a 24
hour basis. McGuire knew that Almy, who was kept in a locked room, was insane but otherwise in good
physical condition. McGuire had been taking care of Almy for 18 months when Almy had a violent attack.
Almy broke furniture and warned McGuire not to enter the room or she would be killed. P entered the
room to prevent D from hurting herself. P approached D who held a piece of broken furniture over her head
and P was injured.
P sued D and the jury entered a verdict in P’s favor and the court entered judgment in P’s favor and
awarded damages for tort assault and battery.
Issue: Can an insane person have “intent” to commit a tort?
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