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Manning v. Grimsley - Case Brief

643 F.2d 20

 

 

Status:

Massachusetts, 1981

 

Facts:

P (Manning) was a spectator in the right field bleachers at a ball park, sitting behind a wire mesh fence. P and others began heckling D (Grimsley) as he began warming up in the bullpen. D deliberately looked at the hecklers, then latter after his catcher had walked away from the plate, D wound up to pitch, the ball was thrown 90 degrees from the plate, through the mesh and hit P, causing injuries. P filed suit against D and his employer Baltimore Baseball Club.

 

Procedural History:

TC directed verdict in favor of the Ds on the battery charge, and submitted the negligence charge to the jury who returned a verdict in favor of the Ds.

 

Issues:

Whether an employer is liable for a battery committed by its employee in response to conduct interfering with his employment duties?

 

Analysis:

Evidence shows that D is an expert pitcher who deliberately noticed the P and threw a baseball at a high-rate of speed at an unusual angle. Therefore the jury could reasonably conclude that D intentionally threw the baseball to cause the P a reasonable apprehension of contact, which actually occurred. Accordingly, the court erred in directing a verdict in favor of D on the battery count. Similarly, the court erred in directing a verdict in favor of the Baltimore Baseball Club, D’s employer.

 

To recover from an employer for an assault committed by its employee, the P must show that the employee’s assault was in response to the P’s conduct which was presently interfering with the employee’s ability to perform his duties successfully.

 

While mere insulting remarks that may annoy or harass an employee are not normally sufficient conduct by a P to interfere with the employee’s duties, P heckling arises to such level. The jury could reasonably conclude that the P heckled in order to disrupt or interfere with D’s ability to warm-up adequately. Unlike a mere annoyance, the P’s remarks rise to conduct that was presently interfering with D’s ability to perform his duties. The lower court should have submitted the batter count to the jury.

 

Holding:

Yes.

 

Judgment:

Vacated and remanded.

 

Rule:

Heckling interferes with a baseball player’s ability to fulfill his employment duties.

 

To recover from an employer for an assault committed by its employee, the P must show that the employee’s assault was in response to the plaintiff’s conduct which was presently interfering with the employee’s ability to perform his duties successfully.

 

Dissent or Concurrence:

None

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