I de S et ux. v. W de S

At the Assizes, 1348.

Y.B.Lib.Ass. folio 99, placitum 60.

Prosser, p. 34


Facts: W wanted to buy wine from I.  W came to I’s house at night and found that the door was closed.  He knocked on the door with his hatchet, and M stuck her head out the window and told him to stop.  W struck at M with the hatchet.  Now, what I don’t get is if W missed, or hit the window, or whatever.  Let’s say W tried to hit M but missed.


Issue: Can a plaintiff recover damages for assault when there was no harm done?


Rule: If you “with force and arms…make an assault” on someone, they are entitled to recover damages from you.


Analysis: The big deal is that even if the dude misses, he still caused harm.  The court doesn’t say, but maybe what they’re implying is that the assault caused mental distress.


Conclusion: The defendant was made to pay damages.


Notes and Questions


1.     There’s a good policy reason for allowing the action despite the fact that no one was hurt: it’s good to deter people from attempting to hurt someone.  Sometimes they might succeed, so if you can prevent them from trying in the first place by the threat of a lawsuit, then cool.


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