Defendant Not Justified in Punching Mouthy and "Belligerent" Plaintiff in the Face
Reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Supreme Court, Smithers Registry, demonstrating that punching someone in the face is rarely the legally acceptable solution to a problem.
In the recent case (Azak v. Chisholm) the Defendant was a contractor building a retaining wall on property neighbouring the Plaintiff’s. A verbal confrontation between the Plaintiff and Defendant occurred with the court finding “the plaintiff confronted Chisholm about the Project in a belligerent manner that Chisholm did not like” and specifically with the Plaintiff calling the Defendant “a ‘f-ing asshole” and a “white piece of shit”.
The Defendant gave evidence as follows surrounding the altercation:
Chisholm told the plaintiff that “we are going to go to work and what are you going to do about it?” The plaintiff responded by saying: “you’re going to find out right now” and that Chisholm was a “white piece of shit”. Chisholm testified that he perceived this as a threat and he did not want to find out what the plaintiff had in mind. Chisholm said “I’ve had enough”, jumped down from the retaining wall and hit the plaintiff in the face.
The punch resulted in a fractured cheek and nose that requires surgical correction.
The Plaintiff successfully sued for damages. In rejecting the Defendant’s claim of self defense and noting the burden on a defendant to successfully raise the defense Mr. Justice Weatherill provided the following reasons:
 I find that, regardless of the harassment and insults the plaintiff had levied at Chisholm and regardless of how long the plaintiff’s difficult behaviour had been ongoing, Chisholm had no right or justification to do what he did. I find that, whatever threat Chisholm perceived when he was first confronted by the plaintiff on the morning of July 2, 2013 had eased well before the Assault took place. I do not accept that Chisholm was either afraid for his own safety or that of his co-workers. Chisholm could easily have either removed himself from the property or had Nyce mediate the situation, as he had done many times previously. Instead, I find that Chisholm simply and regrettably let his anger and frustration get the better of him.
 I find that Chisholm’s reaction was unreasonable and totally disproportionate to the circumstance he was in and I reject his claim that he acted in self-defence. No reasonable person in Chisholm’s shoes would have felt physically threatened by what the plaintiff had said.
 I find that the plaintiff has demonstrated, on the balance of probabilities, that Chisholm committed the tort of battery upon him, that Chisholm failed to demonstrate he was acting in self-defence and, therefore, Chisholm is liable to the plaintiff in damages.