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Western Union Telegraph Co. v. Hill

Alabama Court of Appeals
150 So. 709 (1933)


Facts

Western Union Telegraph Co. (Western Union) (defendant) had a contract to regulate and repair an electric clock in the office of J.B. Hill (plaintiff). If the clock needed repairs, this was reported to Sapp, an employee of Western Union and manager of one of Western Union's telegraph offices. Sapp would then report the necessary repairs to a specialist, who would fix the clock. One day Hill’s wife called Sapp to report a repair request. When no one came to fix the clock, Mrs. Hill went to the Western Union office where Sapp worked. Sapp was behind a wide, four-foot-tall counter that was as high as his armpits. He was also slightly drunk. When Mrs. Hill asked Sapp about the clock repairs, Sapp replied, “If you will come back here and let me love you and pet you, I will fix your clock.” He repeated this statement and reached out for Mrs. Hill with his hand but did not touch her. Mrs. Hill immediately jumped back. When Sapp made this statement to Mrs. Hill he was close enough to put his hand on her but not close enough, due to the height of the counter, to actually touch her. However, there was evidence that suggested Sapp could have reached far enough beyond the counter to touch Mrs. Hill. Hill sued Western Union for assault. The trial judge submitted the issue of whether Sapp’s actions constituted an assault to the jury. The jury returned a verdict for Hill. Western Union appealed the matter to the Court of Appeals of Alabama.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Samford, J.)

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