10 D.C. 484 (D.C.D.C. 1879), 14,905, Huber v. Teuber

Docket NºAT LAW.— 14,905.
Citation10 D.C. 484
Opinion JudgeMr. Justice WYLIE
Party NameLOUIS HUBER AND CATHARINA W. HUBER v. FRANK TEUBER AND BERNARDINA TEUBER.
AttorneyS. S. Henkle and J. Wilson , for plaintiffs. R. T. Merrick and R. Ross Perry , for defendants. The first of these instructions on the part of the plaintiffs was as follows:
CourtSupreme Court of District of Columbia

Page 484

10 D.C. 484 (D.C.D.C. 1879)

LOUIS HUBER AND CATHARINA W. HUBER

v.

FRANK TEUBER AND BERNARDINA TEUBER.

AT LAW.— No. 14,905.

Supreme Court, District of Columbia.

September Term, 1879

I. An instruction to the jury should not assume that the evidence has established facts about which there is controversy and conflict of evidence.

II. In an action for an assault and battery, the acts of both parties at the time of the transaction constitute the res gestoe ; and if these acts, on the one hand, are such as aggravate the character of the offense, they should increase the damages. If, on the other hand, they are such as show provocation on the part of the plaintiff, they mitigate the character of the act, diminish the damages in a corresponding degree, and the acts and declarations of the plaintiff at the time are to be considered for this purpose.

III. It is erroneous to instruct the jury, that if they found the defendant acted maliciously they must give more than compensatory damages. The matter of exemplary damages is to be left wholly to the discretion of the jury. There are properly only two classes of damages in actions ex delicto — compensatory and those called exemplary; and compensatory damages include remuneration for injured feelings, pain, and mental suffering.

IV. Exemplary damages cannot be recovered in a civil action for an assault and battery, when that is an offense punishable by a criminal prosecution. In such offense the damage should be compensatory only.

V. A witness who swears to a falsehood in relation to a matter the truth of which he must have known, is not to be believed in any part of his testimony, even when the fact is not material in the case.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE.

The plaintiffs are husband and wife, and they sue jointly in an action of trespass for an assault and battery committed upon the person of the plaintiff's wife by the said Bernardina Teuber, who is sued jointly with her husband as defendants.

The defendants interposed a plea of the general issue, and also a plea that the alleged assault and battery was committed by the defendant Bernardina Teuber upon the plaintiff Catharina in defending the child of the defendants, to wit, Wilhelmina Teuber, from an assault, at that time, upon said child by the plaintiff Catharina Huber.

Issue was joined upon both pleas, and the cause was tried before the chief justice at the last April term of the Circuit Court. The plaintiff introduced several witness for the purpose of proving the assault upon Mrs. Huber, and the extent of the injury and suffering which she sustained, and that the blows, being four in number, were inflicted by Mrs. Teuber with the brush-end of a broom that was worn off short. The medical testimony on the part of the plaintiff was to the effect that Mrs. Huber's injuries caused great pain and were of a serious and permanent character.

The defendants gave in evidence the circumstances of the case for the purpose of showing a present provocation for the assault, by reason of the abusive language and threatening attitude of Mrs. Huber, and that the said Mrs. Huber immediately before had struck and injured the daughter of the defendant, then a child of about the age of eight or nine years. The truth of these circumstances was in controversy. The testimony is voluminous, but the brief statement now made, together with the facts referred to in the opinion, are sufficient to a proper understanding of the points decided. It is only necessary to add the instructions given to the jury at the request of the plaintiffs, and which were passed upon by the court in general term, and which read as follows:

" 1. If the jury find from the evidence that Mrs. Teuber assaulted and beat Mrs. Huber, and that such assault was not in defense of her person, or that of her husband or child, she was not justified by the law in making it, and they must find for plaintiffs, and give them such damages as will compensate for the suffering endured and to be endured, the loss of health and strength, the increased liability to neuralgia, paralysis, and other diseases, and that in estimating such damages they are not to consider any circumstances of provocation which do not amount in law to a justification.

" 2. If the jury find from the evidence that the plaintiff Mrs. Huber gave no such immediate or recent provocation to the defendant Mrs. Teuber as would have excited an ordinarily prudent person to commit an assault at the time when such assault was committed, then, in addition to compensatory damages, they will give damages for the mental pain and suffering of the plaintiff Mrs. Huber.

" 3. If they find that the assault and beating was without immediate or recent provocation, and was malicious or wanton, they must, in addition to compensatory damages and damages for wounded feelings, give punitive damages."

The defendant excepted to the giving of these several instructions.

The defendant requested, among several others, the two following instructions to be given to the jury, which the court refused, and an exception was noted to such ruling:

" 1. If the jury believe the assault and battery complained of in this case was wantonly provoked by plaintiff Mrs. Huber for the purpose of bringing a suit for damages against defendants, then plaintiff is not entitled to recover.

" 2. The jury are instructed, as a rule of law, that where a witness testifies in respect to a matter about which he must have known the truth, and gives evidence which the jury finds he could not have been mistaken about, but which he must have known to be false, the jury will disregard his evidence in every particular."

A verdict was found in favor of the plaintiff in the sum of $2,500, and a motion for a new trial was overruled. The case is now here to be heard upon the exceptions to the rulings above set forth.

S. S. Henkle and J. Wilson , for plaintiffs.

First exception . In this charge the jury is instructed that, in estimating actual damages, they were not to consider any circumstances of provocation not amounting to a justification. It seems that provocation may be considered in mitigation of exemplary damages, but not the actual damages, which in this charge are defined.

Is this good law? Our learned friends say it is not, and cite a formidable list of cases in support of the doctrine that provocation may be considered to mitigate damages generally, and that actual damages, however serious, may be reduced to mere nominal by provocation which does not amount to justification.

Of the English cases cited, but one of them ( Frazer v. Berkeley , 7 Car. & P., 619) is a suit for damages for assault; and although the court allowed the circumstances showing provocation to be given in evidence, it is apparent, I think, that the court intended it only to be considered in mitigation of exemplary damages, although the distinction is not in terms made. The other cases, I respectfully suggest, have no bearing upon the question.

Of the thirty-one American cases cited, about one-third are suits for libel, trespass to property, and malicious prosecution. Of the remaining two-thirds, which are suits for assault, some are not in point. In some it is loosely said that contemporaneous provocation may be considered in mitigation of damages, without making the distinction between actual and exemplary damages.

The doctrine that provocation may not reduce actual damages is held in the following cases: Watson v. Christie , 2 Bo. & Pul., 223; Millard v. Brown . 35 N. Y., 297, cited by defendant; St. Peter's Church v. Beach , 26 Conn. 355; Dilsbee v. Morris , Id., 415; Ellsworth v. Thompson , 13 Wend. 662; Phillips v. Kelly , 29 Ala. 628, cited by defendant; Keys v. Devlin , 3 E. D. Smith, (N. Y.,) 518; Reeder v. Purley , 41 Ill. 279; Bernard v. Donnelly , Id., 126; Burchard v. Booth , 4 Wis. 85; Wilson v. Young , 31 Id. 574; Prentiss v. Shaw , 56 Me. 427; Jacobs v. Hoover , 9 Minn. 204.

R. T. Merrick and R. Ross Perry , for defendants.

The propositions of law involved in the first assignment of error are these:

1. Circumstances of provocation on the part of the plaintiff, including the injuries complained of, are to be considered by the jury in mitigation of damages generally. ( Dennis v. Rawlings , 12 Vin. Abr., 159; Chinn v. Norris , 2 Car. & Payne, 361; Frazer v. Berkeley , 7 Id. 619; Watts v. Frazer , Id., 369; Avery v. Ray , 1 Mass. 12; Boyton v. Kellogg , 3 Mass. 189; Larned v. Buffington , Id., 547; Child v. Homer , 13 Pick. 503; Lee v. Woolsey , 19 Johns. 319; Ellsworth v. Thompson , 13 Wend. 662; Collier v. Moulton , 7 Johns. 109; Matthews v. Terry , 10 Conn. 455; Flint v. Clark , 13 Id. 361; Bartram v. Stone , 31 Id. 164; Marker v. Miller , 9 Maryland, 338; Gaithers v. Blowers , 11 Id. 550; State v. Wood , 1 Bay, (S. C.,) 351; State v. Quinn , 2 Mill., (S. C.,) 694; Dean v. Horton , 2 McM., (S. C.,) 147; Barry v. Ingles , 2 Hayw., (N. C.,) 102; Rochester v. Anderson , 1 Bibb 428; Waters v. Brown , 3 A. K. Marsh., 529; Jackaway v. Dula , 7 Yerg. 82; Fullerton v. Warrick , 3 Black. 219; Schlosser v. Fox , 14 Ind. 365; Ireland v. Elliott , 5 Iowa 478; Coxe v. Whitney , 9 Me. 531; Wege v. Westcott , 1 Vroome 212; Philips v. Kelly , 29 Ala. 628; Dorsey v. Malone , 14 Cal. 553.)

2. Malice and provocation in the defendant are punished by inflicting damages exceeding the measure of compensation, and in the plaintiff by giving him less than that measure. ( Finnerty v. Tipper , 2 Camp. 72; Child v. Homer , 13 Pick. 503; Bartram v. Stone , 31 Conn. 164; Cushman v. Ryan , 1 Story 100; Robison v. Ruppert , 23 Penn. St., 524; Moseley v. Dunbar , 24 Wis. 183; Millard v. Brown , 35 N. Y., 297.)

2d. The second assignment of error embraces exceptions numbered 2 and 3. The court, in granting plaintiff's second and third prayers, distinguished mental pain and suffering from elements of compensatory damage on the one hand, and of...

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4 practice notes
  • 662 F.3d 1091 (9th Cir. 2011), 10-36012, Ditullio v. Boehm
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
    • November 7, 2011
    ...plaintiff— who by hypothesis is fully compensated. Moreover, although punitive damages are " quasi-criminal," Huber v. Teuber, 10 D.C. 484, 490 (1877), their imposition is unaccompanied by the types of safeguards present in criminal proceedings. This absence of safeguards is exace......
  • 768 F.3d 382 (5th Cir. 2014), 12-30714, McBride v. Estis Well Serv., L.L.C.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
    • September 25, 2014
    ...it is imposed by way of indemnity to the aggrieved party it should not exceed his actual loss incurred . . . ." ); Huber v. Teuber, 10 D.C. 484, 489-90 (1879) (" Vindictive, punitive, or exemplary damages are sometimes allowable, not as compensation to the plaintiff for his indemn......
  • 461 U.S. 30 (1983), 81-1196, Smith v. Wade
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Supreme Court
    • April 20, 1983
    ...387, 393 (1882); Davis v. Hearst, 160 Cal. 143, 116 P. 530, 539-540 (Cal.1911) ("malice of the evil motive"); Huber v. Teuber, 10 D.C. 484, 489-491 (1871); Jeffersonville Railroad Co. v. Rogers, 38 Ind. 116, 124-125 (1871); Curl v. Chicago, R.I. & P.R. Co., 63 Iowa 417, 428-42......
  • 789 N.E.2d 467 (Ind. 2003), 40S01-0209-CV-471, Cheatham v. Pohle
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • May 30, 2003
    ...see also Smith v. Wade, 461 U.S. 30, 59, 103 S.Ct. 1625, 75 L.Ed.2d 632 (1983) (Rehnquist, J., dissenting) (citing Huber v. Teuber, 10 D.C. 484, 490 (1877)); Felix Forte, Joinder of Civil and Criminal Relief in Indiana, 7 Notre Dame Law. 499, 501 As a matter of federal law, state legislatur......
4 cases
  • 662 F.3d 1091 (9th Cir. 2011), 10-36012, Ditullio v. Boehm
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
    • November 7, 2011
    ...plaintiff— who by hypothesis is fully compensated. Moreover, although punitive damages are " quasi-criminal," Huber v. Teuber, 10 D.C. 484, 490 (1877), their imposition is unaccompanied by the types of safeguards present in criminal proceedings. This absence of safeguards is exace......
  • 768 F.3d 382 (5th Cir. 2014), 12-30714, McBride v. Estis Well Serv., L.L.C.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
    • September 25, 2014
    ...it is imposed by way of indemnity to the aggrieved party it should not exceed his actual loss incurred . . . ." ); Huber v. Teuber, 10 D.C. 484, 489-90 (1879) (" Vindictive, punitive, or exemplary damages are sometimes allowable, not as compensation to the plaintiff for his indemn......
  • 461 U.S. 30 (1983), 81-1196, Smith v. Wade
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Supreme Court
    • April 20, 1983
    ...387, 393 (1882); Davis v. Hearst, 160 Cal. 143, 116 P. 530, 539-540 (Cal.1911) ("malice of the evil motive"); Huber v. Teuber, 10 D.C. 484, 489-491 (1871); Jeffersonville Railroad Co. v. Rogers, 38 Ind. 116, 124-125 (1871); Curl v. Chicago, R.I. & P.R. Co., 63 Iowa 417, 428-42......
  • 789 N.E.2d 467 (Ind. 2003), 40S01-0209-CV-471, Cheatham v. Pohle
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • May 30, 2003
    ...see also Smith v. Wade, 461 U.S. 30, 59, 103 S.Ct. 1625, 75 L.Ed.2d 632 (1983) (Rehnquist, J., dissenting) (citing Huber v. Teuber, 10 D.C. 484, 490 (1877)); Felix Forte, Joinder of Civil and Criminal Relief in Indiana, 7 Notre Dame Law. 499, 501 As a matter of federal law, state legislatur......