Florida Assault and Battery: Civil Cases

Understanding Florida’s Assault and Battery Laws for Civil Lawsuits

Assault is defined as an unlawful threat of injury to another by force.  It is the threat, not actual physical contact. By contract, a battery is an infliction of intentional and offensive contact on the person of another with the defendant having done some act which caused and intended to cause an unwanted contact.  Assault and battery are also crimes, and these actions in civil court often follow a criminal investigation.  An assault and/or a battery in civil court is a cause of action to make someone whole for injuries they sustained because of violence of another, the threat of violence or both.  In Florida, for an assault to occur you need more than just words.  A wrongdoer, or tortfeasor, must do more than merely threaten.  Words not followed by any attack or attempt to attack is not an assault.  Lay v. Kremer, 411 so. 2d 1347 (Fla. 1st DCA 1982).  On the other hand, a threat coupled with an action such that someone is in immediate fear of contact is an assault.

Often, the actions of employees can create liability for their employers through a doctrine known as respondeat superior.  For example, a security guard acting within his or her scope of employment who detains an individual can create liability for his employer.  In civil actions, a plea of self-defense, if proven is an absolute bar to recovery.  In Florida, a person is entitled to repel force with force to the extent reasonably necessary to protect one from injury. Price v. Gray’s Guard Service, Inc., 298 So. 2d. 461 (Fla. 1st DCA 1974). Conversely, provocation, is not a defense to an action for assault and battery.

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Don’t Be Afraid to Pursue and Action for Assault and Battery 

Although Assault and Battery is a violation of Florida’s criminal code and can subject the wrongdoer to criminal penalties, it can also serve as a basis for civil liability.  Many of our clients are afraid to pursue Assault and Battery claims after a criminal investigation.  Failing to stand up for  your rights rewards the wrongdoer and allows someone to unfairly take advantage of you.  In addition to criminal penalties, the wrongdoers can be held responsible in civil court for their actions. Categorically, you may be entitled to recovery for (1) Past medical expenses (2) Future Medical Expenses (3) Pain and Suffering.

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