|OPINION BY: KIRSCH
Mable Wallace appeals the jury verdict in favor of Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) and Harriet Rosen, a teacher for IPS. On appeal, Wallace raises the following issues:
I. Whether the trial court erred in refusing to give her tendered jury instruction regarding battery…
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
In 1994, Rosen was a teacher at Northwest High School in Indianapolis. On April 22, 1994, the high school had a fire drill while classes were in session. The drill was not previously announced to the teachers and occurred just one week after a fire was extinguished in a bathroom near Rosen's classroom.
On the day the alarm sounded, Wallace was at the high school delivering homework to her daughter Lalaya. Because Wallace was recovering from foot surgery and Lalaya's class was on the second floor, Lalaya's boyfriend Eric Fuqua accompanied Wallace up the stairs. Wallace and Fuqua were near the top of the staircase when they saw Lalaya and began to speak with her. Jamie Arnold, a student who knew Lalaya and her mother, joined the conversation. The alarm then sounded and students began filing down the stairs while Wallace took a step or two up the stairs to the second floor landing.
In response to the alarm, Rosen escorted her class to the designated stairway and noticed three or four people talking together at the top of the stairway and blocking the students' exit. Rosen did not recognize any of the individuals but approached "telling everybody to move it." Wallace, with her back to Rosen, was unable to hear Rosen over the noise of the alarm and Rosen had to touch her on the back to get her attention. Rosen then told Wallace, "you've got to get moving because this is a fire drill."
At trial, Wallace testified that Rosen pushed her down the stairs. Rosen denied pushing Wallace and testified that Wallace had not fallen, but rather had made her way down the stairs unassisted and without losing her balance…
Over Wallace's objection, the court gave the incurred risk instruction. The jury found in favor of IPS and Rosen, and Wallace now appeals.
DISCUSSION AND DECISION
I. Battery Instruction
Wallace first argues that it was error for the trial court to refuse to give the jury the following tendered instruction pertaining to battery:
A battery is the knowing or intentional touching of one person by another in a rude, insolent, or angry manner.
Any touching, however slight, may constitute an assault and battery.
Also, a battery may be recklessly committed where one acts in reckless disregard of the consequences, and the fact the person does not intend that the act shall result in an injury is immaterial.
Wallace argues that the omission of the instruction was error because the instruction was an accurate statement of the law, was supported by the evidence, and was not covered by any other instruction read to the jury. Appellees respond that the instruction was properly omitted because there was no evidence presented that supported a battery instruction.
We agree with Appellees. The Indiana Pattern Jury Instruction for the intentional tort of civil battery is as follows: "A battery is the knowing or intentional touching of a person against [his] [her] will in a rude, insolent, or angry manner." Battery is an intentional tort. In discussing intent, Professors Prosser and Keeton made the following comments:
In a loose and general sense, the meaning of 'intent' is easy to grasp. As Holmes observed, even a dog knows the difference between being tripped over and being kicked. This is also the key distinction between two major divisions of legal liability--negligence and intentional torts . . . .
It is correct to tell the jury that, relying on circumstantial evidence, they may infer that the actor's state of mind was the same as a reasonable person's state of mind would have been. Thus, . . . the defendant on a bicycle who rides down a person in full view on a sidewalk where there is ample room to pass may learn that the factfinder (judge or jury) is unwilling to credit the statement, "I didn't mean to do it."
On the other hand, the mere knowledge and appreciation of a risk--something short of substantial certainty--is not intent. The defendant who acts in the belief or consciousness that the act is causing an appreciable risk of harm to another may be negligent, and if the risk is great the conduct may be characterized as reckless or wanton, but it is not an intentional wrong. In such cases the distinction between intent and negligence obviously is a matter of degree. The line has to be drawn by the courts at the point where the known danger ceases to be only a foreseeable risk which a reasonable person would avoid, and becomes in the mind of the actor a substantial certainty.
The intent with which tort liability is concerned is not necessarily a hostile intent, or a desire to do any harm. Rather it is an intent to bring about a result which will invade the interests of another in a way that the law forbids. The defendant may be liable although intending nothing more than a good-natured practical joke, or honestly believing that the act would not injure the plaintiff, or even though seeking the plaintiff's own good.
Wallace, Lalaya, and Fuqua testified that Rosen touched Wallace on the back causing her to fall down the stairs and injure herself. For battery to be an appropriate instruction, the evidence had to support an inference not only that Rosen intentionally touched Wallace, but that she did so in a rude, insolent, or angry manner, i.e., that she intended to invade Wallace's interests in a way that the law forbids.
Professors Prosser and Keeton also made the following observations about the intentional tort of battery and the character of the defendant's action:
In a crowded world, a certain amount of personal contact is inevitable and must be accepted. Absent expression to the contrary, consent is assumed to all those ordinary contacts which are customary and reasonably necessary to the common intercourse of life, such as a tap on the shoulder to attract attention, a friendly grasp of the arm, or a casual jostling to make a passage. . . .
The time and place, and the circumstances under which the act is done, will necessarily affect its unpermitted character, and so will the relations between the parties. A stranger is not to be expected to tolerate liberties which would be allowed by an intimate friend. But unless the defendant has special reason to believe that more or less will be permitted by the individual plaintiff, the test is what would be offensive to an ordinary person not unduly sensitive as to personal dignity.
During the trial, Wallace gave the following testimony concerning the manner in which Rosen touched her:
Q [Rosen] took both hands and placed them on your shoulder blades?
A Not across my shoulder. She had her finger tips and my shoulder, and turned me around like, and moving it…
Q What happened next, Ms. Wallace?
A That's when I slipped. I turned around--when she turned me around, that's when I slipped. Because one of my--my left foot that I had the surgical [sic] on, that's when I slipped.
Viewed most favorably to the trial court's decision refusing the tendered instruction, the foregoing evidence indicates that Rosen placed her fingertips on Wallace's shoulder and turned her 90 degrees toward the exit in the midst of a fire drill. The conditions on the stairway of Northwest High School during the fire drill were an example of Professors Prosser and Keeton's "crowded world." Individuals standing in the middle of a stairway during the fire drill could expect that a certain amount of personal contact would be inevitable. Rosen had a responsibility to her students to keep them moving in an orderly fashion down the stairs and out the door. Under these circumstances, Rosen's touching of Wallace's shoulder or back with her fingertips to get her attention over the noise of the alarm cannot be said to be a rude, insolent, or angry touching. Wallace has failed to show that the trial court abused its discretion in refusing the battery instruction…