We’ve probably all been bullied at one time or another, and some of us might have even been cyber-bullied. Some examples of cyber-bullying might include text messages, emails or social media posts that operate to threaten, harass, intimidate, embarrass or otherwise harm a recipient.
Facing an Enhanced Charge
According to the American Bar Association Journal, one Twitter user recently sent another user a GIF with a strobe effect. It was accompanied by the message, “You deserve a seizure.” The sender knew that the recipient was an epileptic. Strobe lights can cause seizures in a small minority of epileptics. Indeed, the recipient went into a seizure. The sender has now been arrested on federal cyberstalking charges. That charge was dismissed, but the sender still faces another charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in state court. Prosecutors are calling the bullying an enhanced hate-crime.
A Physical Tool
There’s still another case that’s pending against the sender in federal court, and that’s a lawsuit based on the civil tort theory of battery. In its simplest sense, battery involves harmful or offensive contact with the plaintiff’s person coupled with the intent to do so. That definition dates back before the Mayflower. In the 21st century, battery isn’t always thought of as a violent physical blow or groping though. As per the strobe case, it was held that the GIF was a physical tool that would have “the same effect as any person with the plaintiff’s condition.” In support of his decision, the federal judge stated that past cases involving second-hand smoke, electrical shocks or loud noise can also constitute a battery. Much like a laser causing blindness, or a deafening noise, direct harmful or offensive contact need not be made.
What the sender never realized is that battery is an intentional tort. Intentional torts are generally not covered by insurance or dischargeable in bankruptcy. On top of that, punitive damages are allowed in personal in cases involving intentional torts. The sender is likely to learn a lesson from the school of hard knocks in this case. He’s likely to be in for a long payoff.