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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Ind. Decisions - More on Mullins v. Parkview

The ILB has heard from several readers on today's Supreme Court decision in Ruth Mullins and Johnce Mullins, Jr. v. Parkview Hospital, Inc., et al.

One reader writes

Incredible! [and then quotes from the opinion, with emphasis]
. . . These factors do not combine to create even a suggestion of intent to harm on VanHoey’s part. Rather, they depict a student following a curriculum and the instructions of her superiors. Because there is no genuine issue of material fact as to VanHoey’s intent to cause a harmful contact with Ruth, VanHoey was entitled to summary judgment on the Mullinses’ battery claim.
In one stroke, they have changed the definition of intent in tort cases to one that requires a malicious intent (an intent to do harm). And they did it unanimously!

This is language that will create confusion for years to come!

The reader also sent this section from the Restatement of Torts, 2d, § 8A Intent:
The word "intent" is used throughout the Restatement of this Subject to denote that the actor desires to cause consequences of his act, or that he believes that the consequences are substantially certain to result from it.


a. "Intent," as it is used throughout the Restatement of Torts, has reference to the consequences of an act rather than the act itself. When an actor fires a gun in the midst of the Mojave Desert, he intends to pull the trigger; but when the bullet hits a person who is present in the desert without the actor's knowledge, he does not intend that result. "Intent" is limited, wherever it is used, to the consequences of the act.

b. All consequences which the actor desires to bring about are intended, as the word is used in this Restatement. Intent is not, however, limited to consequences which are desired. If the actor knows that the consequences are certain, or substantially certain, to result from his act, and still goes ahead, he is treated by the law as if he had in fact desired to produce the result. As the probability that the consequences will follow decreases, and becomes less than substantial certainty, the actor's conduct loses the character of intent, and becomes mere recklessness, as defined in § 500. As the probability decreases further, and amounts only to a risk that the result will follow, it becomes ordinary negligence, as defined in § 282. All three have their important place in the law of torts, but the liability attached to them will differ. [emphasis added]

The reader concludes:
"Intent" in tort law does not mean the same thing as intent to do harm (malice) does in criminal law. Well, at least it didn't until today.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 2, 2007 05:13 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions