Intentional Torts

In addition to negligent actions, an individual may be liable for his or her intentional acts that cause injury to another. Recovery for intentional torts is not limited to economic and non-economic damages listed above. Intentional torts also give rise to liability for punitive damages. Punitive damages are damages awarded by the jury to punish the Defendant for their actions. An insurance policy does not cover for punitive damages. An employer is not required to pay for punitive damages alleged against its employee.

In summary, a security officer needs to be aware of intentional torts in order to avoid actions that may meet the elements of an intentional tort. The most common intentional torts are assault, battery, libel, slander, false imprisonment and detention. You will note these civil torts closely resemble crimes discussed in the earlier section. The elements are often identical. Be aware then that your actions can result in both criminal and civil liability. Not only can you be prosecuted for an act, but also sued for money!

Assault and Battery

Assault and battery are often grouped together, but the two actions are separate and distinct offenses. Assault is the apprehension of an offensive or harmful contact. Raising one’s hand to strike another, putting the person in fear of being hit, is an assault. Battery requires the actual touching to occur. Battery is an offensive or harmful touching or contact. [Restatement 2d of Torts Section 21, 21(1).]

Obviously, if a person is being placed under arrest, the touching required to place the person under arrest may be an offensive contact. Also, removing an unauthorized person from the premises may be an offensive touching. How can a security officer perform his or her duties if the officer cannot touch or have contact with others?


Reasonable Force

California allows the use of reasonable force to make an arrest. Reasonable force is the “minimum amount of force reasonably necessary under the circumstances to overcome resistance to effectuate a lawful arrest.” (See California Penal Code Section 836.1.) However, some force may be used to place an individual under arrest.

One of the most important actions a security officer must take in cases of any force, is to document the actions! This is imperative. The officer’s actions and the other individual’s actions must be set forth in a concise, clear, factual manner. A chronological series of events may be helpful. What first drew the officer’s attention to this person? What happened next? Where did it take place? When? Who was involved? Who else was present? Why were actions taken? When did the action start? When did it end? Was the officer placed in fear for his or her safety?