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Court Lays Down Law on Sidewalk Rage

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

Sidewalk rage is a thing, and it is getting out of control, especially in big cities.

In the workday rush, people can't help but bump into each other. Too many people, too little sidewalk.

Naturally, New York has given us a legal precedent for sidewalk rage in the United States. In Wright v. Musanti, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals explained when enough is enough.

Manhattan Dame

Jacqueline Musanti started it one day in Manhattan, where it happens all the time. As she was rushing to her office, Scott Wright cut in front of her, and it was on.

There was yelling, fighting, and calling the police. Musanti said Wright started the fracas, but surveillance video footage showed no he didn't.

He sued and a judge awarded nominal, compensatory and punitive damages. Musanti took it to the next level.

On appeal, she said the judge made all kinds of mistakes. The First Circuit focused on the fight video because pictures don't lie.

'Accidently Stepped On'

So, the appeals court observed, Musanti and Wright were in a sidewalk race. After falling behind, Musanti "accidentally stepped on" Wright's heel.

But the second time, the appeals court said, she "intentionally kicked" his heel. Words, hitting, scratching later, Musanti had Wright pinned against a wall.

The First Circuit noted that Wright was a "slightly built man," and Musanti was a "medium-sized woman." It wasn't a legal observation, just a fact.

That's assault and battery, the judges said by affirming the judgment. It was only $1 in nominal damages, but $5,000 for attorney's fees to defend a false arrest claim and $10,000 in punitive damages for being a ... sidewalk rager.

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