The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld a lower court decision dismissing a law professor’s lawsuit against Ohio Northern University Pettit College of Law’s former interim dean.

In his assault and battery suit, the plaintiff alleged that he suffered lifelong physical injury after the defendant grabbed and squeezed his shoulder during a campus encounter.

Agreeing with the district court’s finding that the defendant did not commit a battery, the Court of Appeals cited § 19 of the Restatement of the Law Second, Torts, in its discussion of the definition of an “offensive battery.” Specifically, the court noted that in order for a contact to be considered “offensive,” it had to be offensive to a reasonable sense of personal dignity. With the support of the Restatement, the court agreed that “touching a colleague on the shoulder to get his attention [was] well within the ordinary ‘social usages prevalent’ in the workplace,” and was not considered an offensive contact.

An update to Battery: The Definition of Offensive Contact is one of the sections being addressed in the current Intentional Torts Restatement project. Visit the project page to learn more about the contents of this Restatement.

Read the opinion.

Pauline Toboulidis

The American Law Institute


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