Definition of The Tort of Battery

According to Salmond & Heuston p.125, battery is defined as

“the application of force to the person of another without lawful justification”.

Goff LJ in Collins vs Wilcock states that:

Battery is the actual infliction of unlawful force on another person.

He said that touching would amount to battery if it doesn’t fall within the realm of normal touching experienced in conduct of everyday life.

    Ingredients of The Tort of Battery

1. Intention: For one to be liable for battery, the touching has to be intentional irrespective of the fact that it was not meant to cause injury. If the touching was not intentional it would be categorized as negligence.

In the case of Marube vs Nyamuro CA No.8 1983, the appellant, an infant, sued through his father for battery suffered when the respondent was flogging him with a rope which hit his right eye causing him to lose that eye. According to testimony of the appellant and other pupils, the injury suffered was a result of the deliberate act of the respondent.

The defense of the respondent was that it was a mistake and he didn’t intend to hit the appellant on the eye. The court  held that flogging the claimant was intentional irrespective of whether or not harm was intended. And since harm resulted from this, he would be liable. Thus, damages of 30,000 sh were awarded.

It should be noted that if the tortfeasor intends to hit someone but he misses and it touches someone else, the principle of transferred malice would be considered in order to place liability on him.

In the case of Livingstone vs Ministry of Defence 1984 356 NICA, a soldier in Northern Ireland fired a baton round at a rioter. The round missed the rioter and hit the claimant. The principle of transferred malice was applied and the soldier was held liable.

2. It Must Be Direct: To be liable for battery, the injury must be as a direct result of the intentional act of the tortfeasor.

In Scott vs Shepherd 1773 WM 1892, Shepherd threw a lighted squib into the market and it landed on the stall of a ginger bread seller. Willis picked it up and threw it away, it landed on Ryal’s stall, who picked it up and threw it away. It struck the claimant in the face and blinded him in one eye.

The court held that the injury was a result of the action of defendant and he was held liable for battery.

In Gibbons vs Pepper (1695) ILD RAYM 38, the defendant whipped a horse so that it bolted and ran down the claimant. It was held that the injury suffered by the plaintiff was a direct result of the defendant’s action. He was thus held liable for battery.

It should be noted that the force applied does not have to be personal contact. For instance in Pursell vs Horn (1838) 8 A&E 602, the claimant went to the saloon to get a permanent wave. However, at the salon, D threw water on the plaintiff. The defendant was held liable.


  1. Lecture delivered by Dr. Bashir Omipidan on Nigerian Law of Torts
  2. Salmond and Heuston on the Law of Torts

11 thoughts on “THE TORT OF BATTERY

  1. My name is Clement and am reading law in the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana .
    Am getting confuse with the case GIBBON v PEPPER.
    For battery , if the act isn’t voluntary but directly on the person’s person , does it result in battery ?

    1. Yes because it doesn’t have to be personal touch but direct. When he whipped the horse his intention was still the same to cause harm making the defendant liable

  2. if it is not voluntary but it is the direct act of the defendant it is not battery. for a person to be liable fore battery the act complained of must be a direct act of the defendant as well as a voluntary act. that is the controllability of the act not the willingness of the act. the question here is did the defendant have control of the act? and in gibbons v pepper the defendant did have control of the act and he did it voluntarily as well as directly causing the claimant injuries.

  3. Please am confused about the briefing in Gibbons v pepper. You said the plaintiff injury was a direct result of the plaintiff’s action. Please is it the defendant or the plaintiff. Thank you.

  4. Could action for the tort of battery be brought against a tortfeasor who shot a deceased victim resulting to an injury leading up to the deceased victim death?

    Is battery a tortious claim equivalent on an injury for murder or manslaughter will be in criminal case?

  5. If there is not intent to injure, but rather intent to prank someone that results in injury, does that constitute battery?

    1. Well… Pranking definitely involves assault, since you’re causing someone to fear… If there is physical contact during the prank, it’s battery. You can’ say there was no intent because carrying out the prank was a conscious act.

  6. There’s always tortuous liability for psychological and emotional harm flowing from a malicious prank or the consequences of a practical joke. The rule in Wilkenson v Downton. Also, take your victim as you find him.

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