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Ghassemieh v. Schafer

Maryland Court of Special Appeals
447 A.2d 84 31 (1982)


In 1977, Karen Ghassemieh (plaintiff) was an art teacher at a junior high school. While Ghassemieh was teaching an eighth-grade class, one of her students, Elaine Schafer (defendant), pulled away a chair on which Ghassemieh was about to sit. Ghassemieh fell to the ground and injured her back. About a month later, Ghassemieh’s back began to hurt. Ghassemieh sought medical treatment and later, in 1978, had a spinal fusion. In 1980, Ghassemieh sued Schafer for negligence. At the trial, Schafer testified that she had intended for Ghassemieh to fall on the floor as a joke. Schafer testified that she had not, however, intended for Ghassemieh to be hurt. Schafer’s defense was that her prank constituted the intentional tort of battery, not negligence. The trial judge gave the jury a definition for battery and instructed the jurors to find for the defendant if they determined that Schafer’s actions constituted battery [for which the statute of limitations had already passed]. Ghassemieh objected to the trial judge’s definition of battery, because it did not include a requirement that Schafer actually intend to harm Ghassemieh. The jury found for Schafer. Ghassemieh appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in its instructions to the jury on battery. Ghassemieh argued that even if the facts established intentional conduct, she could still recover for negligence, because intentionality may be imputed from gross negligence.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Moore, J.)

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