Transferred intent in self-defense

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abudaba
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Transferred intent in self-defense

Postby abudaba » Thu Oct 14, 2010 12:43 am

Was watching an episode of dexter and there was a scene that got me thinken:

A attacks B
B throws a punch in self-defense against A
B misses his mark and hits C

Can C recover from A or B for battery?

Edit: assume the self-defense is reasonable
Last edited by abudaba on Thu Oct 14, 2010 3:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

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kalvano
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Re: Transferred intent in self-defense

Postby kalvano » Thu Oct 14, 2010 12:46 am

Haven't gotten to this yet, but even if B's intent transferred, isn't B privileged to defend himself and not guilty of a tort?

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MrKappus
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Re: Transferred intent in self-defense

Postby MrKappus » Thu Oct 14, 2010 12:49 am

Tort's wasn't my thing, but I'm pretty sure the s-d privilege is against the aggressor. You can't haphazardly defend yourself and be automatically shielded from liability. Right?

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buckilaw
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Re: Transferred intent in self-defense

Postby buckilaw » Thu Oct 14, 2010 12:53 am

If it was legitimate self defense then the touching is legally privileged. Meaning that B did not commit Battery against A. If there was no battery in the first place there can be no transfer of intent to C. So C cannot recover from B.

I'm not sure if C can recover from A.
Last edited by buckilaw on Thu Oct 14, 2010 1:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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traehekat
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Re: Transferred intent in self-defense

Postby traehekat » Thu Oct 14, 2010 1:58 am

buckilaw wrote:If it was legitimate self defense then the touching is legally privileged. Meaning that B did nor commit Battery against A. If there was no battery in the first place there can be no transfer of intent to C. So C cannot recover from B.

I'm not sure if C can recover from A.


Sounds about right. Obviously if B defends himself by just shooting a gun off and hits C, then he is liable because he wasn't privileged to use a gun in the first place. However if he uses force which is privileged, I'm not positive. I think the standard is just that B was not reckless, like blindly swinging a baseball bat or something (assuming he is privileged to use a baseball in the first place).

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Re: Transferred intent in self-defense

Postby Kobe_Teeth » Thu Oct 14, 2010 3:07 am

betasteve wrote:
abudaba wrote:Was watching an episode of dexter and there was a scene that got me thinken:

A attacks B
B throws a punch in self-defense against A
B misses his mark and hits C

Can C recover from A or B for battery?

Against B, probably not. Against A - would get iffy around causation issue I think. Better claim under negligence. B might even get hit on negligence if his response was unreasonable in the circumstances.



If B's response was unreasonable then he didn't have the privilege in the first place, correct? And then he would be liable for battery, and if he's liable to A for battery then he's liable for missing A and hitting C. However, if his response is reasonable then, I agree, the extra culpability of intentional torts could allow you to at least get your argument to the jury.

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romothesavior
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Re: Transferred intent in self-defense

Postby romothesavior » Thu Oct 14, 2010 3:13 am

Almost positive no to both, so long as the self-defense was reasonable.

abudaba
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Re: Transferred intent in self-defense

Postby abudaba » Thu Oct 14, 2010 3:26 am

to me it seems unjust for C to not be able to recover cause there isnt some legal doctrine to apply

maybe you can use some sort of stretch of the extended consequences doctrine to apply to A since the battery was a subsequent harm brought about by his initial actions... although I'm pretty sure the definition ext. consq. requires no third party intervention so that may be out

abudaba
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Re: Transferred intent in self-defense

Postby abudaba » Thu Oct 14, 2010 3:30 am

also I suppose B could defend on the grounds that his punch was reflexive (involuntary) which means there would be no prima facie cause of action. Suppose that may complicate things in other ways- but I dont feel like analyzing that right now

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romothesavior
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Re: Transferred intent in self-defense

Postby romothesavior » Thu Oct 14, 2010 3:32 am

abudaba wrote:also I suppose B could defend on the grounds that his punch was reflexive (involuntary)

No he couldn't.

abudaba
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Re: Transferred intent in self-defense

Postby abudaba » Thu Oct 14, 2010 3:37 am

romothesavior wrote:
abudaba wrote:also I suppose B could defend on the grounds that his punch was reflexive (involuntary)

No he couldn't.


There is a case where some elementary school girl makes a stab at some kid with a plastic fork and he punches the s*** out of her crushing her eye socket - no battery because the punch was ruled to be a reflexive action. Think the case was Dixie v. Winston if I remember correctly. I'm sure a good lawyer would try the argument - not saying it would hold though

Total Litigator
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Re: Transferred intent in self-defense

Postby Total Litigator » Thu Oct 14, 2010 4:31 am

Hm, this is a good question, and I remember covering this situation in my torts class. However, the bad part is I can't remember what was said. I'll take a stab at it though. As you probably already know, if B was not acting in self defense, B would be liable to C, and A has no guilt. In this case however, I don't think transferred intent would get C anywhere, as B had no intent to commit a tort against A, only self defense. Does A's intent transfer through B to C? This would be pretty hard to argue and would be breaking new ground on the theory of transfered intent. I would look to the concept of recklessness and negligence to answer this question.

[At this point I decided to turn to google]

Here is what the Model Penal Code says, in the comments under battery: "If a person justifiably uses force against an aggressor, but uses such force in a reckless or negligent manner in regard to the safety of an innocent bystander, the justification defense, which is available to the person in regard to the aggressor, is unavailable to him in a prosecution for such recklessness or negligence as to the bystander."

So therefore B would be criminally liable (and therefore almost certainly civilly liable) if he say, swung out wildly in self defense when C was close by (or the area was crowded). I think the short answer is that A and B are liable to C for their actions if they were reckless or negligent and causation and the other elements of the tort of battery are fulfilled. This can turn into a complicated analysis, as you need to then define recklessness, negligence, and the elements of a tort (duty, breach of duty, causation, and injury), and make sure all these elements are fulfilled.

So if A tried to start a fight in a crowded area, or when C was right next too him, he might be liable for B's hitting C. If A attacked B without excercising reasonable care (negligence) in relation to C or he knew there was a possibility his actions would cause C to be injured (recklessness), he could be liable to C. However, if C dove in there to break up the potential fight, C might ahve been assuming the risk, and thus A or B are not liable to C.

You could also bring in Palsgraf: "screw causality, did A owe a duty to C when he attacked B?" Palsgraf found that when a person acts negligently (in any regard), he or she is liable to the injured if he or she owes that person a duty. (1) The duty that is owed must be determined from the risk that can reasonably be foreseen under the circumstances, and (2) A defendant owes a duty of care only to those who are in the reasonably foreseeable zone of danger." Under this analysis, A might or might not be liable depending on the circumstances. But, if C was within the "zone of danger" when A attacked B, it would probably be reasonable to see the end resulting coming (a swing and miss, and a swing, miss, hit). Same analysis would apply to B if B acted neglgently.

And of course then you have to talk about Assault...

In a criminal law class, you could bring up felony murder, but it would be a stretch....If A attacks B in the form of a felony (let's say attempted murder with a knife) and B tries to defend himself, hitting C, then many jurisdictions would find A criminally and civily liable to C for B's defensive hit. However, because the attack is not felonious, the rule wouldn't apply, unless you are a genius with making policy arguments.

Basically, if my long winded answer shows one thing, its that you can't simply rely upon a seemingly easy rule in these circumstances. You really have to get into it.

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romothesavior
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Re: Transferred intent in self-defense

Postby romothesavior » Thu Oct 14, 2010 11:15 am

Total Litigator wrote: Here is what the Model Penal Code says, in the comments under battery: "If a person justifiably uses force against an aggressor, but uses such force in a reckless or negligent manner in regard to the safety of an innocent bystander, the justification defense, which is available to the person in regard to the aggressor, is unavailable to him in a prosecution for such recklessness or negligence as to the bystander."


It really depends on whether B was reckless or used an unjustifiable amount of force or not. If he throws a beer bottle at A and it sails across the bar and hits someone, then yeah, he'd be reckless. But the mere fact that C was injured, IMO, does not automatically mean that B was reckless. If B used a reasonable level of force in a non-reckless way to protect himself and just so happened to hit C, I don't think he would be liable. Could be wrong though.

Either way, if B's conduct towards A was not tortuous, then you can't say that there was transferred intent. The doctrine doesn't turn non-tortuous behavior into tortuous behavior, it simply ensures that tortfeasors with bad aim don't get off for their bad aim. So if you weren't tortfeasing (awesome word, btw) in the first place, you couldn't say that B's intent to batter A transfers to C, because he wasn't battering in the first place.

And with that... it is time to study. :lol:

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servinDizzert
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Re: Transferred intent in self-defense

Postby servinDizzert » Thu Oct 14, 2010 11:20 am

So therefore B would be criminally liable (and therefore almost certainly civilly liable)


I stopped after this. You cannot draw this inference.

dakatz
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Re: Transferred intent in self-defense

Postby dakatz » Thu Oct 14, 2010 11:27 am

OP, the answer is as simple as this: If B's punch would have been privileged had it landed upon its intended target, then it does not become tortious simply because he missed. For transferred intent to apply with regard to liability, the initial act itself must have been a tort. B's punch against A was not a tort. It cannot become so in retrospect of the result.

P.S. This analysis of course assumes that the punch was completely justified self-defense and in no way retaliatory.

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Pizon
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Re: Transferred intent in self-defense

Postby Pizon » Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:06 pm

I think that C would be able to recover from A, if it was foreseeable that C could be caught in the mix when A originally attacked. There would likely be proximate cause issues if B missed wildly, stumbled across the street, and fell into an unsuspecting C with his fist.

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Re: Transferred intent in self-defense

Postby dakatz » Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:13 pm

Pizon wrote:I think that C would be able to recover from A, if it was foreseeable that C could be caught in the mix when A originally attacked. There would likely be proximate cause issues if B missed wildly, stumbled across the street, and fell into an unsuspecting C with his fist.


All OP asked is whether B's intent to batter (punch) A, transfers to C. With regard to this issue alone, the answer is definitely not. A justified punch in self-defense isn't a battery, so no one can recover if struck by it. Of course we can go further and talk about negligence issues and whether it was reasonably foreseeable that certain results would occur. But he was only asking whether the intent to strike A transfers to C, which it doesn't.
Last edited by dakatz on Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Pizon
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Re: Transferred intent in self-defense

Postby Pizon » Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:15 pm

dakatz wrote:
Pizon wrote:I think that C would be able to recover from A, if it was foreseeable that C could be caught in the mix when A originally attacked. There would likely be proximate cause issues if B missed wildly, stumbled across the street, and fell into an unsuspecting C with his fist.


All OP asked is whether B's intent to batter (punch) A, transfers to B. With regard to this issue alone, the answer is definitely not. A justified punch in self-defense isn't a battery, so no one can recover if struck by it. Of course we can go further and talk about negligence issues and whether it was reasonably foreseeable that certain results would occur. But he was only asking whether the intent to strike A transfers to C, which it doesn't.


He asked whether C could recover from A or B.

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Re: Transferred intent in self-defense

Postby dakatz » Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:17 pm

Pizon wrote:
dakatz wrote:
Pizon wrote:I think that C would be able to recover from A, if it was foreseeable that C could be caught in the mix when A originally attacked. There would likely be proximate cause issues if B missed wildly, stumbled across the street, and fell into an unsuspecting C with his fist.


All OP asked is whether B's intent to batter (punch) A, transfers to B. With regard to this issue alone, the answer is definitely not. A justified punch in self-defense isn't a battery, so no one can recover if struck by it. Of course we can go further and talk about negligence issues and whether it was reasonably foreseeable that certain results would occur. But he was only asking whether the intent to strike A transfers to C, which it doesn't.


He asked whether C could recover from A or B.


He asked "Can C recover from A or B for battery". B didn't commit any battery when he hit C. And A didn't even touch C. So answer to both would be no.

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Pizon
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Re: Transferred intent in self-defense

Postby Pizon » Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:27 pm

dakatz wrote:
Pizon wrote:
dakatz wrote:
Pizon wrote:I think that C would be able to recover from A, if it was foreseeable that C could be caught in the mix when A originally attacked. There would likely be proximate cause issues if B missed wildly, stumbled across the street, and fell into an unsuspecting C with his fist.


All OP asked is whether B's intent to batter (punch) A, transfers to B. With regard to this issue alone, the answer is definitely not. A justified punch in self-defense isn't a battery, so no one can recover if struck by it. Of course we can go further and talk about negligence issues and whether it was reasonably foreseeable that certain results would occur. But he was only asking whether the intent to strike A transfers to C, which it doesn't.


He asked whether C could recover from A or B.


He asked "Can C recover from A or B for battery". B didn't commit any battery when he hit C. And A didn't even touch C. So answer to both would be no.


As a result of A's intented battery on B, C was hurt. If this was a foreseeable sequence of events (i.e., if C was within striking distance the whole time), A could be held liable for battery on C via transferred intent. It would be analogous to A swinging at B, B ducking, and A instead punching C. A effectively punched C with B's fist.
Last edited by Pizon on Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:32 pm, edited 2 times in total.

dakatz
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Re: Transferred intent in self-defense

Postby dakatz » Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:31 pm

Pizon- I don't think your analogy works here though I get what point you are trying to make. If A threw a punch, B ducked, and C was hit, you have one volitional act that most certainly transfers the intent. This is an easy case to assess. But when A goes to hit B, it took another volitional act by B to strike C. Unless A is psychic and somehow has this whole chain of events planned out and knows exactly how B will react, it seems like the causal chain really wouldn't carry over.

(And remember that, to recover for battery, the actor must be substantially certain that the result will occur. The result being reasonably foreseeable is not enough.)

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Re: Transferred intent in self-defense

Postby Total Litigator » Thu Oct 14, 2010 4:34 pm

Romo - Not sure exactly what about my response you're criticizing...
servinDizzert - Yeah my bad, I got that backwards, I'll blame it on the fact it was 3:30am. However, if you read my MPC cite, and just switch out "negligently" or "recklessless" for its civil counterparts, this particular MPC logic works in the civil realm.

Bottom line regarding liability to C for battery, IMO:
Situation 1: Only A is liable to C. If B's reaction is justified and his reaction was not negligent or reckless, B's privilege "transfers" and B is not liable to C. Because B's reaction and its consequences would have been justified and foreseable in this situation, A would probably (with some intelligent argument on the lawyer's part) be liable to C under the transferred intent doctrine and simple causation/foreseeability.
Situation 2: Only B is liable to C. If B is negligent, reckless, or unjustified in his reaction then B will be liable to C. Because B in this situation acts unjustifiably/negligently/recklessly the causation/foreseeabiligy argument for A's actions would be much more difficult and the transferred intent doctrine would probably be voided by the actions an unreasonable 3rd party.
Therefore, either A or B will be liable to C, but it is unlikely that both will be concurrently liable to C.

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soaponarope
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Re: Transferred intent in self-defense

Postby soaponarope » Thu Oct 14, 2010 5:44 pm

dakatz wrote:OP, the answer is as simple as this: If B's punch would have been privileged had it landed upon its intended target, then it does not become tortious simply because he missed. For transferred intent to apply with regard to liability, the initial act itself must have been a tort. B's punch against A was not a tort. It cannot become so in retrospect of the result.

P.S. This analysis of course assumes that the punch was completely justified self-defense and in no way retaliatory.



This.

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romothesavior
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Re: Transferred intent in self-defense

Postby romothesavior » Thu Oct 14, 2010 8:08 pm

Total Litigator wrote:Romo - Not sure exactly what about my response you're criticizing...

None of it. I wasn't criticizing. I was adding to what you said.

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GeePee
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Re: Transferred intent in self-defense

Postby GeePee » Thu Oct 14, 2010 9:46 pm

For B, you'd probably want to base your analysis on Courvoisier v. Raymond. Guy shoots cop running out of a crowd after an attempted burglary, thinks he shot a rioter/burglar. No liability against shooter.

I can't see how there would be any liability for the original batterer either. But if I were arguing for the plaintiff, I'd probably try to rely on a policy argument based upon Vosburg v. Putney. If we want to deter battery, we might extend the liability of harm resulting from the battery to harm done to surrounding parties as well. It's a bit of a stretch for sure, but maybe worth a shot depending on C's injuries.




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