Battery, Assault and other intentional acts

Mississippi has very good civil case law for cases involving injuries caused by battery and other intentional torts. For instance, in most cases where an injury has occurred and negligence is alleged the case will come down to a final determination by the jury of if the Defendant was negligent but also how much the claimant and other defendants contributed to the injury, but in intentional torts the contribution aspect drops out completely because of the difference between negligent and intentional actions. This is based on a strong line of Mississippi cases summarized in Graves v. Graves, 531 So.2d 817 (Miss. 1988).

The authorities in this state and elsewhere are unanimous in declaring that the defenses of contributory or comparative negligence have no application to cases of intentional tort such as assault and battery. “The doctrine of contributory negligence does not apply to an action to recover damages for an assault and battery.” 6 Am.Jur.2d Assault and Battery § 153 (1964). “Where the defendant’s conduct is actually intended to inflict harm upon the plaintiff, there is a difference, not merely in degree but in the kind of fault; and the defense never has been extended to such intentional torts. Thus [contributory negligence] is no defense to assault or battery.” Prosser & Keeton, The Law Of Torts, 462 (5th ed.1984). See Jackson v. Brantley, 378 So.2d 1109, 1112 (Ala. App. 1979) (“It is elementary that contributory negligence is no defense to an intentional wrong.”).

Graves v. Graves, 531 So. 2d 817, 820 (Miss. 1988)

This brings up interesting questions as to what will be admissible into evidence if there is to be no argument of comparative fault by the Defendant. Evidence of most wrong acts of the claimant up until that point or other bad decisions should be excluded because they would not be relevant under MRE 401 because they do not tend to make a fact that is of consequence more probable or less probable and should be found to be irrelevant and excluded. Even if this evidence is found to be relevant, then it has a high probability of being used in an unfair way by the jury and should be filtered by MRE 403.

There may be times at trial that these issues should be brought up in an intentional tort. These times would include in arguing for a valid defense such as self defense or in the punitive phase of trial, but a court would be well within its power to nip these lines of inquiry in the bud because of MRE 402 and 403.