Over the first weekend in June, Joe Mongeon, a 33-year-old man attacked a 9-year-old boy and then punched the boy's mother in the face after the boy hit Mongeon with a water balloon, according to the Scranton Times-Tribune. The Times-Tribune reports that Mongeon started the water balloon fight with the boy and then became upset after the boy actually hit Mongeon with a balloon.
Mongeon not only got angry, he ran after the boy, pushed him to the ground, and then kicked him on the ground, reports the Times-Tribune. The boy's mother, Helen Flynn, then attempted to stop Mongeon, for which she received a punch to the face.
Now this type of attack is certainly a crime, and is being pursued as one by Scranton Police. But the Flynn family also has the ability to bring a personal injury claim against Mongeon.
There are some interesting personal injury issues that arise out of this story. The main cause of action here would be for battery. Battery is when one person intentionally touches another in a way that is harmful or offensive. The touching can also be from an object controlled by a person, like a baseball bat.
Now, it is possible that the boy would be liable for battery for hitting Mongeon with a balloon. Based on Mongeon's reaction, he must have been severely offended by water touching him and therefore "injured" by the boy's action. However, the easiest defense for a battery is consent to the touching or contact.
There are two types of consent, implied and explicit, and both are complete defenses to battery. While it is unlikely that Mongeon said "you can hit me with a balloon," his actions of actively starting a water balloon fight clearly say the same thing. In other words, when there are a pile of water balloons, two people, and a hot day, and one person starts throwing balloons at the other, the person who took the first shot has consented to getting wet.
You may ask, "does this mean that the boy consented to being hit because he threw a water balloon?" The answer is no, because the consent is for one type of contact and not others. You would not say that a football player, who has consented to being hit by other players on the field, has also consented to being hit with a rock by a fan. In the same way, throwing a water balloon consents to being hit by a water balloon, not with fists and feet.
A word to Joe Mongeon, if you don't want to get wet, don't start a water balloon fight with a child.
- Find a Personal Injury Attorney in Philadelphia (FindLaw)
- Police: Man attacked 9-year-old, punched mother after losing water balloon fight (Metro Philadelphia)
- Battery in Special Situations (FindLaw)