The Idaho Court of Appeals has ruled for the University of Idaho in a tort claim by a piano student by deciding that the claim was for a "battery" and not negligence.
Carol and Kenneth White sued the university and music professor Richard Neher. The claim alleged that Neher walked up behind Mrs. White, his student, and touched her back in a movement described as that pianist would make in striking and lifting fingers from a keyboard.Neher said it was a teaching technique he had used with other students with no problem. But Mrs. White said the unexpected contact caused her permanent damage, including the removal of a rib, scarring of the brachial plexus nerve and severing of the scalenus anterior muscles.
Neher did not deny the contact but said he intended no harm.
But in a ruling issued Friday, the Court of Appeals said the contact qualified as battery under Idaho law. Battery does not require any desire or purpose to bring about a specific result or injury.
Because the contact was battery, the claim was denied because governmental agencies are immune from any claim arising from battery by an employee under the Idaho Tort Claims Act, the court said.
The Whites maintained it was negligence by an employee, which is not immune.