Nigerian Cases on Assault and Battery
Below are rationes decidendi on Assault and Battery from Nigerian Cases. Assault is unlawfully putting a person in fear of imminent harm. Battery is inflicting force on a person wrongfully. Assault is not the same as Battery, although they are very connected.
Meaning and Elements of Assault
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines v. Taher (2014) 3 NWLR (Pt. 1393) 137
Assault is the tort of acting intentionally, that is, with either general or specific intent, causing the reasonable apprehension of an immediate harmful or offensive contact. It is considered an intentional tort because Assault requires intent, as opposed to a tort of negligence. Actual ability to carry out the apprehended contact is not necessary. It need not involve actual contact. It only needs intent and the resulting apprehension.
Furthermore, a battery can occur without a preceding Assault, such as if a person is struck in the back of the head.
Three elements must be established in order to prove tortious Assault and these are: the plaintiff apprehended immediate (a) physical contact; the plaintiff had reasonable apprehension (b) (the requisite state of mind); and the defendant’s act of interference was intentional (the defendant intended the (c) resulting apprehensions).
Specific intent means that when the defendant acted, he or she intended to cause apprehension of a harmful or unwanted contact. General intent means that the defendant knew with substantial certainty that the action would put someone in apprehension of a harmful or unwanted contact. Assault can be justified in situations of self-defence or defence of a third party where the act was deemed reasonable. The focus for the purpose of determining whether a particular act is an Assault must be upon the reasonableness of the plaintiff’s reaction.
Meaning and Ingredient of Battery
Ndibe v. Ndibe (1998) 5 NWLR (Pt. 551) 632
The word “battery” in common law is a crime or a tort involving the actual (or negligent) use of unlawful physical force on a person without his consent. It includes even the slightest force; no actual harm need result. Consent, self defence, lawful and reasonable chastisement may be defences. In common usage “Assault” is often a synonym for battery, in law they are distinct.
Okekearu v. Tanko (2002) 15 NWLR (Pt. 791) 657
An act does not amount to a battery, unless it is done either intentionally or negligently. In this case, the amputation of the respondent’s finger was an intentional act done without the consent of either the respondent and or his guarantor. The appellant was thus liable in battery.
Assault and battery as a civil and criminal acts
FRSC & ORS v. AKPOS (2021)LCN/15014(CA)
“It is trite that assault and battery qualify as both criminal and tortuous acts. So it can arise in a criminal trial or civil claim in tort.” – Per YARGATA BYENCHIT NIMPAR, JCA
ESI v. CNPC/BGP INTERNATIONAL & ANOR (2014) LPELR-22807(CA)
“I am amazed that the learned trial judge has allowed the argument of learned Respondent’s counsel to becloud him to forget that assault can be both a civil and criminal wrong. Assault is a civil tort for which the aggrieved person is entitled to damages. Proof in civil matters is on a balance of probabilities.
“Assault or battery in civil matters involves inflicting some degree of force on a person negligently or intentionally. In this case, the Appellants claim that the 2nd Respondent pushed him out of his office and ordered mobile policemen to push him out of the camp. There is no evidence on record to contradict that statement of the Appellant.
“He claimed that by the act of the Respondents, he felt degraded, dehumanized and insulted in the presence of the other contractors. In this case, since none of the Respondents’ witnesses denied what occurred, the Appellant need only adduce minimal evidence which must be accepted by this court. See Egbunike & Anor. V. African Continental Bank Ltd. (1993) 2 NWLR Pt. 375 Pg. 34; Buraimoh v. Bamgbose (1989) 3 NWLR Pt. 109 Pg. 352.” – Per HELEN MORONKEJI OGUNWUMIJU, JCA
Proof of Assault and Battery
ADAMU v. IGP & ORS (2013) LPELR-22812(CA)
“For the Appellant to succeed in his claim for damages, it must be specifically pleaded and strictly proved. There is no doubt that the Appellant was assaulted, but for the Appellant to succeed in his claim for damages, he must have properly identified those who committed the tortuous act of assault and battery on him. He must identify the tortfeasors and the role each of them played in the alleged assault and damage to his property. See RANSOME – KUTI v. A. G. OF THE FEDERATION (1985) 2 NWLR (PT. 6) 211 at 221.” Per CHIOMA EGONDU NWOSU-IHEME, JCA