TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Widener Commonwealth Law School

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Battery, Assault, Or Just A Request for Courtesy?

The element of intent in battery, assault, and other intentional torts is one of the trickier concepts to teach. 

Now, via the Facebook page for the finest theaters in the land, Alamo Drafthouse, comes the story of Dale Fout and Brenda Godwin, who were both at a Dallas area theater (not the Alamo).Fout received a text and looked at it during the movie.  Godwin, annoyed, tapped him on the shoulder and asked him to put it away.  Fout responded...strongly, we'll say, telling her never to touch him and calling the police who, at his request, issued a citation for assault. 

While you contemplate whether the facts would support a civil claim for battery, enjoy the Alamo's outstanding (if not for kids) presentation of a voicemail it received from a woman who was kicked out for texting during a movie:




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I would vote for a request for courtesy. However, it may depend on how the request was made. If it was a polite request, it would seem rather ridiculous to interpret it as an assault. In order for there to be a credible threat of harm, the tap should have been accompanied with a threatening statement.

It is unfortunate that some people would choose to litigate rather than follow the social etiquette called for in certain situations. Isn't the point of going to the theater to escape what's going on in the word around us?

Posted by: Dana Atman, Esq. | Aug 25, 2011 11:53:16 AM

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