Battery is generally defined as the intentional act of causing offensive contact or physical harm to a person without that person’s consent. Unlike an assault, you must actually make contact with the person for a battery to occur. While battery is as a crime, it is also a tort which can expose you to civil liability as well.

If you are sued for civil battery, you must meet the elements of the tort to be found liable. In addition, you may have a defense to the civil battery claim. However, if you are found liable of civil battery, you may be ordered to pay damages to the plaintiff for your actions.

What are the Elements of Civil Battery?

While the definition of battery varies between the states, generally the following elements need to be met:

  • Intent to make contact with the victim; and
  • Taking action to cause physical harm or offensive touching.

Battery can cover a wide variety of actions. For example, you can still be found liable of battery if you make contact with something connected to the person. This could include pulling someone’s clothing. You could also be found liable of battery for spitting in someone’s face.

What are Defenses to Civil Battery?

If a lawsuit is filed against you for civil battery, you may have defenses to the claim. This will depend on your state’s laws and whether you have an excuse for the alleged battery. Some examples of defenses to civil battery are:

  • Denial that one of all of the battery elements occurred, including lack of intent;
  • You were acting in self-defense;
  • You were acting to defend another person;
  • You were defending property (deadly force is generally not allowed);
  • You had consent;
  • You were performing a duty, such as when a police officer apprehends a criminal; and/or
  • The plaintiff assumed the risk. 
    • This means that the plaintiff knew and voluntarily accepted the risks and dangers involved in the conduct and proceeded to engage in the conduct, such as when a person agrees to play contact sports.

What Penalties can I Face for Civil Battery?

If you are found liable for civil battery, you may have to pay the plaintiff compensatory damages. The amount can vary based on your state laws and the severity of the battery. In addition, you could face punitive damages, which are meant to punish you and prevent the same conduct from happening in the future.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Civil Battery Case?

If you have been sued for civil battery, you should contact a local personal injury attorney to represent you in court. An attorney can let you know if the claim has merit and whether you may have any defenses.