Ghassemieh v. Schafer

447 A.2d 84 31 (1982)

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Ghassemieh v. Schafer

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

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Facts

In 1977, Karen Ghassemieh (plaintiff) was an art teacher at a junior high school. While Ghassemieh was teaching an eighth-grade class, student Elaine Schafer (defendant) pulled away a chair on which Ghassemieh was about to sit. Ghassemieh fell to the floor 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 trial, Schafer testified that she had intended for Ghassemieh to fall on the floor as a joke but did not intend to harm Ghassemieh. Schafer’s defense was that her prank constituted the intentional tort of battery, not negligence, and consequently, because the complaint alleged only negligence, Schafer was not liable. The statute of limitations had already passed for a battery claim. The trial judge gave the jury a definition for battery, stating that battery was an intentional touching that was harmful or offensive. The judge then instructed the jurors to find in Schafer’s favor if they determined that Schafer’s actions constituted battery. Ghassemieh objected to the trial judge’s definition of battery, arguing that the conduct amounted to battery only if Schafer intended to harm Ghassemieh, which she did not. Ghassemieh therefore believed negligence liability was appropriate. The jury found for Schafer. Ghassemieh appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in its instructions to the jury on battery. On appeal, 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

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Moore, J.)

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