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Beach v. Hancock

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Plaintiff and Defendant were having an angry confrontation when Defendant pointed an unloaded gun at Plaintiff in a threatening manner. Plaintiff was unaware that the gun was not loaded.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    An assault is inchoate violence attempted or committed against another person plus the present means of carrying the intent into effect. Even if no physical harm occurs, the injured party may have redress by an action of trespass.  The issue of damages to be awarded to the party injured is to be determined by the jury.

    Facts.

    Plaintiff and Defendant were having an angry confrontation in Defendant’s office. Defendant pointed a gun at Plaintiff in a threatening manner. Plaintiff was unaware if the gun was or was not loaded. Defendant snapped the gun twice, and the gun was not loaded. Plaintiff sued Defendant for trespass for an assault. The court found Defendant’s actions of aiming the gun in a threatening manner at Plaintiff who had no knowledge of the gun being loaded or not constituted an assault and that it did not matter whether the trigger was even pulled to reach this conclusion. Jury found for Plaintiff. Defendant made a motion for new trial.

    Issue.

    Whether pointing an unloaded gun in a threatening manner at another individual constitutes an assault.

    Held.

    Defendant is guilty of assault. However, the court below was in error for its instruction to the jury that the pointing of a gun, in an angry and threatening manner, was an assault because the instruction should have included the crucial element of intent to do harm, which would be for the jury to determine. Judgment on the verdict.

    Discussion.

    This Court found it clear that Defendant had the intent to do harm to Plaintiff in his act of pointing the gun at Plaintiff. The injury suffered by Defendant’s act of violence was putting Plaintiff in reasonable fear for his life or bodily harm.


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