Torts I, Pages 39–41

Western Union Telegraph Co. v. Hill

Court of Appeals of Alabama, 1933

Facts:

As part of her job, Hill routinely contacted Sapp to repair clocks. In the time in question, Hill contacted Sapp over the phone to repair a clock. When Sapp did not do it, Hill went to see him in person. There Sapp said that he would repair the clock if Hill would “let [Sapp] love and pet” her. Hill said that at this point, Sapp lunged to grab her arm, but she backed away in time. Sapp denied attempting to grab Hill. Sapp was not able to reach far over his counter, and it is unclear if he was even capable of grabbing her.

Judgment:

Reversed on the ground that Sapp had not acted within the scope of his employment.

Procedural History:

Jury found for plaintiff.

Issue:

Whether an assault can be committed if the defendant was not actually capable of contacting the plaintiff.

Rule/Holding:

An assault can be committed as long as the defendant "create[s] in the mind of the [plaintiff] a well-founded fear of an imminent battery coupled with the apparent present ability to effectuate the attempt, if not prevented."