Brief Fact Summary. Alcorn (Plaintiff) was awarded $1,000 in damages after Mitchell (Defendant) spat in Plaintiff’s face. Defendant appealed, claiming the damages were excessive.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. It is customary to instruct juries that they may give vindictive damages when there are circumstances of malice, willfulness, wantonness, outrage and indignity attending the wrong.
Issue. Was the $1,000 in damages awarded to Plaintiff excessive?
Held. No. Judgment affirmed.
* Under these facts, damages that punish the wrongdoer (punitive damages) are appropriate. Punitive damages are intended for acts of the greatest indignity, which are highly provocative of retaliation by force. The law should afford substantial protection against such outrages by awarding liberal damages to the victim. These liberal damages may deter victims from resorting to personal violence as the only means of redress. In this case, Plaintiff should not have to endure such a disgraceful indignity.
* It is customary to instruct juries that they may give vindictive damages when there are circumstances of malice, willfulness, wantonness, outrage and indignity attending the wrong. Defendant’s act was indicative of such qualities. Defendant was a man of wealth and was not forced to pay too dearly for the indulgence.
Discussion. Battery is the intentional harmful or offensive touching of another. Spitting on someone is an offensive touching. Defendant intended to cause this offensive touching. Therefore, Defendant is liable to Plaintiff for an offensive battery.