Investigators are attempting to identify a woman who allegedly assaulted an employee of a restaurant located off the N.W. Expressway. She began cursing at employees and was being escorted to the door when she attempted to hit one employee and spit on another. The woman left after being removed from the premises. Oklahoma City police are seeking information about her identity.

Is Spitting Assault and Battery Under Oklahoma Law?

Assault and battery are two separate offenses under Oklahoma law. Assault is defined as “a willful and unlawful attempt or offer with force or violence to do a corporal hurt to another.” Battery is the result of an assault when actual corporal harm is committed.

Assuming the allegations are true, the woman in the news story committed both assault and battery. The story says she “attempted to hit” an employee, so even if the blow did not connect, that is assault. Spitting, however, is a form of battery established under case law. Given that bodily fluids can spread viruses, diseases, and is degrading to potential victims, spitting on or at someone is against the law.

If the woman spat at an employee, knowing that she had a communicable disease such as COVID-19, the charges could be upgraded with stiffer penalties.

Could the Employees File a Civil Suit Against the Perpetrator?

An assault can result in damages that are both physical and psychological. If these employees suffered damages, then they are certainly entitled to file a civil assault lawsuit against the woman and hold her accountable.

Civil suits are different and separate from criminal proceedings. So, even if the woman is not criminally prosecuted, it does not mean there are no grounds for a civil suit. The employees may have suffered physical harm from the attempt to hit them or from the contact with the woman’s saliva. There was probably emotional trauma from the escalation of the event and the aftermath, as well..

Given the current situation with COVID-19, spitting on someone is a clear and direct threat to their overall health and well-being. There is limited information available about the incident, but it is reasonable to assume any employee who came into contact with her saliva would need to be tested for COVID-19. The wait for the test results, and the inability to work while they underwent testing and waited for results, could result in significant financial harm.

Could the Restaurant Be Held Liable?

Possibly. If the restaurant did not provide adequate security, it would be a premises liability issue that placed the employees and perhaps patrons in danger.

Businesses have a duty of care to both its employees and patrons. This duty includes providing adequate security to protect visitors from foreseeable crimes committed by third parties. To be successful in a premises liability civil suit, the plaintiffs would have to prove that the business failed to exercise reasonable care or failed to give an adequate warning about the potential for violence.

The employees involved in the above altercation could also file for worker’s compensation if they need time off of work to recoup from their injuries or to await test results. Oklahoma worker’s compensation is a no-fault system, so it is not necessary to prove that the restaurant did anything wrong to qualify.

Damages Available in an Assault Case

Oklahoma has a series of victim’s rights laws that provide for restitution to crime victims. The officer interviewing the victim has a responsibility to inform the victim of their rights under the law. In addition to the right for restitution under the law, the victim can also bring a civil suit against the perpetrator that caused harm to the victim.

The victims can seek both compensatory and punitive damages. The purpose of compensatory damages is to compensate victims for damages that include:

  • Medical expenses, both past, and present
  • Lost income
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of future earning capacity

Punitive or “exemplary” damages are damages awarded to the plaintiff as a punishment against the defendant. The purpose of punitive damages is to discourage the defendant from acting willfully and negligently in the future. However, these types of damages are only awarded in a very select number of cases. They’re typical not on the table in most cases.

Know Your Rights if You are the Victim of an Assault in Oklahoma

If you are assaulted, your physical injuries can range from minor to catastrophic. You have the right to seek compensation from the parties that contributed to your injuries. As the victim of a crime, it is common to feel emotionally and physically strained. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

Seek a consultation with an Oklahoma City attorney as soon as possible after an assault. Involving an attorney early in a case helps ensure your rights as a victim of a crime are protected, and the sooner you can move past the event and get on with your life.