O'brien v. Snodgrass, No. 9148.

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtROSE
PartiesO'BRIEN. v. SNODGRASS.
Decision Date23 September 1941
Docket NumberNo. 9148.

16 S.E.2d 621

O'BRIEN.
v.
SNODGRASS.

No. 9148.

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

Sept. 23, 1941.


Syllabus by the Court.

1. Punitive or exemplary damages are such as, in a proper case, a jury may allow against the defendant by way of punishment for wilfulness, wantonness, malice, or other like aggravation of his wrong to the plaintiff, over and above full compensation for all injuries directly or indirectly resulting from such wrong.

2. There can be no recovery of punitive or exemplary damages, unless they are claimed eo nomine in the declaration, or the wrong pleaded therein is alleged to have been done wilfully, maliciously, wantonly or in some other like aggravated manner, or unless facts are pleaded from which the court can see that a jury may legally conclude therefrom that the tort was so committed.

3. The calling of members of the Department of Public Safety "Boy Scouts" in then presence and hearing, while they are acting in their official capacity is not per se a common law misdemeanor, or a violation of Code,

[16 S.E.2d 622]

15-2-15, forbidding the interference with, or molesting of, such officers while on duty.

Error to Circuit Court, Ohio County.

Action on the case for trespass vi et armis by Bernard O'Brien against Walter Bruce Snodgrass. To review an adverse judgment, the defendant brings error.

Judgment reversed, and cause remanded with directions that plaintiff be permitted to enter a remittitur.

McCamic & Clarke, Wesley R. Tinker, Jr., and Dallas G. McCune, all of Wheeling, for plaintiff in error.

William C. Piper, of Wheeling, for defendant in error.

ROSE, Judge.

This writ of error is prosecuted by Walter B. Snodgrass to a judgment rendered by the Circuit Court of Ohio County against him in the sum of $700 in favor of Bernard O'Brien in an action on the case for trespass vi et armis.

The declaration is very brief. It charges that:

"* * * The said defendant, with force and arms assaulted the said plaintiff, and with great force and violence struck, and cut the said plaintiff about the face, and gave, struck and cut him a great many other blows, strokes and slashes.

"By means of which said several premises the said plaintiff was then greatly hurt, bruised and wounded, and became and was sick, sore, lame and disordered, and so remained and continued for a long space of time, towit, for the space of three weeks then next following, during all of which time, the said plaintiff thereby suffered and underwent great pain and was hindered and prevented from performing and transacting his necessary affairs, business and labor by him during that time to be performed and transacted; and by means of the aforementioned premises, the plaintiff also suffered great mental anguish, and so remained and continued for a long space of time, to-wit, from thence to now."

A written demurrer was filed, argued and overruled, whereupon, upon motion of the defendant, the plaintiff was ordered to file a more specific statement of his cause of action. This he never did. The defendant interposed a plea of the general issue, and a special plea setting up that he was a member of the Department of Public Safety, and that the alleged assaulting and beating of the plaintiff was the necessary and unavoidable use of force to compel him to submit to arrest by the defendant.

In the opening statement to the jury by the plaintiff's attorney, the announcement was made that punitive damages would be demanded, to which defendant's attorney objected, the objection being overruled by the trial court.

In submitting the case to the jury, the trial judge, by certain instructions given on motion of the plaintiff over the objection of the defendant, directed the jury that they could find "punitive damages" against the defendant, and refused instructions asked by the defendant to the effect that no such damages might be recovered. The following verdict was returned, the form of which had been expressly prescribed by the trial judge: "We, the jury, find for the plaintiff, and assess his compensatory damages at One Hundred Fifty Dollars ($150.00); and we further find for the plaintiff for punitive damages against the defendant in the sum of Five Hundred and Fifty Dollars ($550.00)."

The evidence on behalf of the plaintiff tended to show that he was a bystander in a crowd while the defendant and other members of the Department of Public Safety were raiding the Embassy Club situated on an alley between Main and Market Streets in the City of Wheeling; that shortly after midnight, as the defendant and two other officers were emerging from the club room, he cried out, once or more, in a voice sufficiently loud to be heard over the noise of the crowd: "We better duck, here come the Boy Scouts", whereupon, the defendant came to him through the crowd and "grabbed me by the collar and slugged me in the jaw" with his fist; that the plaintiff then consented to go with the officer and was immediately hit a second time by the defendant.

The defendant's testimony was to the effect...

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41 practice notes
  • Coleman v. Sopher, No. 23943.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 20, 1997
    ...compensation for all injuries directly or indirectly resulting from such wrong." Syllabus Point 1, O'Brien v. Snodgrass, 123 W.Va. 483, 16 S.E.2d 621 Syl. pt. 4, Harless v. First Nat'l Bank, 169 W.Va. 673, 289 S.E.2d 692 (1982). We have also stated that "[p]unitive damage instructions are l......
  • CSX Transp., Inc. v. Smith, No. 11–0694.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 7, 2012
    ...compensation for all injuries directly or indirectly resulting from such wrong.’ Syllabus Point 1, O'Brien v. Snodgrass, 123 W.Va. 483, 16 S.E.2d 621 (1941).”); Syl. pt. 3, Jopling v. Bluefield Water Works & Improvement Co., 70 W.Va. 670, 74 S.E. 943 (1912) (“To sustain a claim for punitive......
  • JWCF, LP v. Farruggia, No. 12–0389.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • December 27, 2013
    ...compensation for all injuries directly or indirectly resulting from such wrong.’ Syllabus Point 1, O'Brien v. Snodgrass, 123 W.Va. 483, 16 S.E.2d 621 (1941).” Syl. Pt. 4, Harless v. First Nat'l Bank, 169 W.Va. 673, 289 S.E.2d 692 (1982).The evidence cited by the circuit court above is nothi......
  • Harless v. First Nat. Bank in Fairmont, Nos. 15088
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • March 23, 1982
    ...compensation for all injuries directly or indirectly resulting from such wrong." Syllabus Point 1, O'Brien v. Snodgrass, 123 W.Va. 483, 16 S.E.2d 621 5. Because there is a certain open-endedness in the limits of recovery for emotional distress in a retaliatory discharge claim, we decline to......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
41 cases
  • Coleman v. Sopher, No. 23943.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 20, 1997
    ...compensation for all injuries directly or indirectly resulting from such wrong." Syllabus Point 1, O'Brien v. Snodgrass, 123 W.Va. 483, 16 S.E.2d 621 Syl. pt. 4, Harless v. First Nat'l Bank, 169 W.Va. 673, 289 S.E.2d 692 (1982). We have also stated that "[p]unitive damage instructions are l......
  • CSX Transp., Inc. v. Smith, No. 11–0694.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 7, 2012
    ...compensation for all injuries directly or indirectly resulting from such wrong.’ Syllabus Point 1, O'Brien v. Snodgrass, 123 W.Va. 483, 16 S.E.2d 621 (1941).”); Syl. pt. 3, Jopling v. Bluefield Water Works & Improvement Co., 70 W.Va. 670, 74 S.E. 943 (1912) (“To sustain a claim for punitive......
  • JWCF, LP v. Farruggia, No. 12–0389.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • December 27, 2013
    ...compensation for all injuries directly or indirectly resulting from such wrong.’ Syllabus Point 1, O'Brien v. Snodgrass, 123 W.Va. 483, 16 S.E.2d 621 (1941).” Syl. Pt. 4, Harless v. First Nat'l Bank, 169 W.Va. 673, 289 S.E.2d 692 (1982).The evidence cited by the circuit court above is nothi......
  • Harless v. First Nat. Bank in Fairmont, Nos. 15088
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • March 23, 1982
    ...compensation for all injuries directly or indirectly resulting from such wrong." Syllabus Point 1, O'Brien v. Snodgrass, 123 W.Va. 483, 16 S.E.2d 621 5. Because there is a certain open-endedness in the limits of recovery for emotional distress in a retaliatory discharge claim, we decline to......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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