YOU CAN CALL IT AN ACCIDENT, BUT IT’S STILL AN INTENTIONAL TORT

City of Watauga v. Gordon
Texas Supreme Court, No. 13-0012 (June 6, 2014)
Justice Devine (opinion)
The Texas Tort Claims Act waives governmental immunity for personal injuries caused by negligent use of property, but not for intentional torts. Gordon sued the City of Watauga for negligence, claiming a police officer accidentally injured him by improperly using handcuffs on him during an arrest. But the Supreme Court concluded Gordon’s claim could only be battery, not negligence, and the City was therefore immune from suit. Gordon urged that the fundamental difference between a negligent injury and an intentional injury is the specific intent to inflict injury, and his allegation of an accidental injury therefore arose from negligence, not battery. The Court rejected that distinction, citing the Restatement and several cases for the proposition that harm resulting from an intentional touching is battery, even if the harm itself was not intended. Based on this principle, the Court held that “when an arrest, lawful in its inception, escalates into excessive-force allegations, the claim is for battery alone.”

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