Help for Victims of Assault & Battery
The Philadelphia assault and battery attorneys at Mattiacci Law have handled several cases involving assault and battery over the years. These cases have been brought in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey in a variety of settings, many including actions against security employees of various types of businesses.
Assault and battery cases involve specific challenges. An experienced Philadelphia assault and battery lawyer can help navigate those challenges and help you get compensated for your injuries and damages.
Contact our team of personal injury lawyers today for a free consultation.
Our Experience Handling Assault and Battery Cases
John Mattiacci and William Coppol have handled several assault and battery cases in PA and NJ on behalf of injured victims and their families. Some sample cases include:
Emmons v. Nine Inch Nails, et al.: John Mattiacci was lead counsel for a concertgoer who was seriously injured by a security worker at a Nine Inch Nails concert in Philadelphia. John alleged that the security worker used unreasonable and excessive force against a fan by throwing him to the ground and slamming his face into the concrete. The allegations contained assault and battery claims. The defendant denied any wrongdoing and blamed the victim. A thorough and aggressive investigation of the case, including locating concert attendees through online forum posts, tracking down videos taken by fans at the concert, and a thorough understanding of the law, proved essential to proving the victim's case.
O'Neill v. McWhitey's, et al.: Bill Coppol and John Mattiacci worked as co-counsel for the family of a man murdered in a Philadelphia bar. The victim, Seamus O'Neill, was beaten to death with a baseball bat inside McWhitey's, a tavern in the Port Richmond section of the city. This horrific case involved assault and battery claims, in addition to negligence, gross negligence, and other allegations against the manager of the bar and its owner. In a concurrent criminal case, the manager of McWhitey's who killed Mr. O'Neill was ultimately found guilty of first degree murder.
Sebinego v. Mac's Tavern: John recently represented a man who was seriously injured by a bouncer at a local pub in Philadelphia. The suit alleged that the security guard used excessive force against a customer, causing the customer to fall to the ground and shatter his leg. The customer required emergency surgery. John successfully crafted an argument that the bar had violated Philadelphia's bouncer code, which requires bouncers at certain bars in the city be registered, trained, and certified. John used his detailed knowledge of the city ordinance and the bar's own social media posts and online ads against it to show that the bouncer code applied to this establishment. The bar denied the code applied to their specific business. John's argument that the bouncer code applied to the defendant was ultimately accepted by the Court at trial.
These are just some examples of the types of cases that we have handled that involved assault and battery allegations. Contact our firm today if you have any questions as to whether you have potential claims arising from an assault or battery.
What Are the Elements of an Assault in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania an assault occurs where: (1) a person, without privilege, intends to cause harmful or offensive bodily contact or to put another in reasonable and immediate apprehension of harmful or offensive contact; and (2) the action of the person causes such an apprehension.
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania defined assault as follows:
"Assault is an intentional attempt by force to do an injury to the person of another." Renk v. City of Pittsburgh, 537 Pa. 68, 76, 641 A.2d 289, 293 (1994). Recently, these elements of proving an assault claim were reiterated by the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia in the case of Reason v. Kathryn's Korner Thrift Shop, 2016 Phila. Ct. Com. Pl. LEXIS 501, *8.
It is important to note that an assault does not necessarily require actual physical harm. As long as a person intends to cause someone else to fear he or she will be harmed or hit and the victim feels afraid, an assault has occurred. However, words alone may not be sufficient to constitute an assault. The Courts have held that a person that is threatening harm must be in a position or take some action to carry out the threat against the victim.
What Are the Elements of a Battery in Pennsylvania?
A battery is a separate legal claim from an assault. However, they often arise from the same incident. The key difference is that unlike an assault, battery requires actual harmful or offensive contact with another person.
As the Court stated in Reason, to establish a case of battery, a plaintiff must show that a defendant did in fact touch the plaintiff in a harmful or offensive way. Reason, at *8. Physical contact is a requirement of this type of claim.
A straightforward example of battery would be punching another person in the face. Other types of harmful or offensive contacting have been considered sufficient to establish battery, such as spitting on someone. The key factor is that contact actually takes place.
The Difficulty With Intentional Torts
Both assault and battery claims are considered intentional torts. "Tort" is an old-fashioned legal term. It means an act or wrongdoing that causes harm to another and can lead to a civil claim for damages.
The issue with intentional torts like assault and battery is that insurance companies generally will not pay for damages caused by these acts. Insurance companies often have clauses in their policies that disclaim coverage for intentional acts. Otherwise, people may be more willing to hurt someone else if they think their insurance carrier would pay the resulting damages.
As a result, even when there may be evidence of an assault or battery those claims are often brought along with other negligence claims, as most insurance policies cover negligent acts.
The difficulty recovering money when there is no available insurance may not be as much of a problem when you are suing a business or person that has significant assets or money. In those situations it can still be worth pursuing a legal action even if there is no insurance if the defendant has sufficient money to personally pay any judgment obtained.
How a Philadelphia Assault and Battery Lawyer Can Help
The personal injury attorneys at Mattiacci Law have handled many cases involving assault and battery over the years. Whether those cases resulted in the death of a victim or in serious injuries, our attorney have battled for our clients or their families to get them full compensation for their damages.
Our firm conducts a thorough investigation of any case. If there is a separate criminal action arising from an assault or battery, we have often attended those criminal hearings or trials and have worked with prosecutors to provide evidence or information. Our firm strives to uncover any helpful fact that will allow us to prove an assault and battery took place and to hold the wrongdoers responsible.
Contact our firm today if you have been the victim of an assault or battery. Our legal team will review the facts of your case and offer guidance on your legal options.
A Word from a Client…
I have never been through the legal process before, so when I had an unfortunate incident at a local restaurant, Mr. Mattiacci expertly guided me and made the entire process smooth and easy. I would highly recommend John Mattiacci Jr. to anyone who needs representation. He is not only professional but takes the time to understand the personal side of your case. He and his staff were always pleasant to work with and they remained diligent in all aspects of my case until it was resolved. His confidence was reassuring in a situation which could be daunting to most.Mattiacci Law Client, September 11, 2012
Frequently Asked Questions
I do not have the money to pay a lawyer. How can I afford to hire an attorney?
You don’t have to worry about that with our firm. Our firm offers a contingent fee. That means we charge no retainer, we never ask clients to pay money out of pocket, and we front all of the costs to litigate the case. The only way we get paid a fee and recover those costs is if we recover money in the case. If we do not win the case, you do not owe us anything.
Do I have to prove my claim 'beyond a reasonable doubt'?
No. “Beyond a reasonable doubt” is the standard for a criminal trial. In a civil lawsuit the standard is much lower – usually it is “preponderance of the evidence”, which means something like “more likely than not.”
Is it possible to win an assault and battery lawsuit if the defendant is not convicted of a crime resulting from the incident?
Yes, it is possible. A criminal proceeding and a civil proceeding are generally considered separate proceedings. The burden of proof is much higher in a criminal prosecution than it is in a civil lawsuit. To win a civil lawsuit you need convince the jury by a “preponderance of the evidence” that you were assaulted. This preponderance standard basically means “more likely than not.”
In a criminal case, the prosecutor must establish that the defendant intentionally caused an assault or battery “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This is a much higher burden and more difficult to prove. That is why the defendant may be found not-guilty in a criminal case, while you can still win a civil lawsuit based on essentially the same incident.
Can I sue a government official for assault and battery?
Generally the answer is yes, subject to certain conditions. If you can fairly characterize your claim as a civil rights claim, you might even be able to maintain a lawsuit in federal court under Section 1983. Section 1983 is particularly useful when you are suing a state official and you are concerned about local favoritism in state courts.
How much might I win in damages?
Every case is different. Without knowing the specifics of each case an attorney cannot give an estimate of the potential value of a case. That evaluation will need to weigh the facts of the incident, the nature and extent of any injuries, the amount of medical treatment and bills, and a calculation of lost wages and other economic damages.
In many cases of assault without physical contact, a defendant will argue that any potential value is lower than if there was a physical injury. If you were seriously injured, you may be entitled to:
- Medical expenses
- Lost earnings
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of life's pleasures
- Scarring and disfigurement
- And other potential damages
Our firm thoroughly evaluates our clients' potential damages. We often utilize experts to calculate and determine a client's damages. This may include having a doctor give an opinion on the injuries a client has suffered, what treatment that client may need in the future, and the costs of the future treatment. We also use economists to determine the full monetary losses that a client may suffer due to an incident. These losses include past and future lost wages, loss of household services, and other economic losses.
We work to fully evaluate our clients' damages in order to get them the best possible recovery in their cases.
Can I win punitive damages?
Perhaps. In order to be eligible for punitive damages you must:
- be eligible for ordinary compensatory damages,
- prove that the defendant’s conduct was malicious, willful, wanton or some similar degree of seriousness, and
- prove your eligibility for punitive damages by “clear and convincing evidence” (a higher standard of proof than the “preponderance of the evidence” standard that is ordinarily used).
Can I settle out of court?
A client ultimately has the choice of settling a case or of proceeding to a trial. Settling out of court for a fair settlement can save time and costs and removes the risks of going to court. However, at the Philadelphia personal injury firm of Mattiacci Law, we believe the best way to obtain a settlement is to thoroughly prepare the case for trial. That way the defense knows that you fully intend to go to trial if they do not offer fair compensation in settlement.
I was badly beaten in an unprovoked attack by an intoxicated bar patron. The attacker has no money or insurance. Can I sue the bar that served him alcohol?
You might be able to hold the bar liable under the Pennsylvania Dram Shop Law. Although this law is ordinarily used against drunk drivers, it can also be used to hold a bar liable for assault and battery. To win, you must show that the bar served alcohol to the patron after he was already visibly intoxicated.