Jacobs v. Bonser, et al.

A nonsmoker at the baggage claim area of Lambert St. Louis International Airport — where smoking is illegal — asked a smoker to put out her cigarette.  Bonser refused to do so even after Jacobs told her that he had a serious health reaction to the smoke.  Bonser blew smoke in his face and attempted to flick her ashes into an ashtray.  Jacobs had his hand on the ashtray and, after the ashes landed on his hand, jerked his hand back and inadvertently struck Bonser’s shoulder. Bonser’s friend summonsed police.  Jacobs was charged with assault and battery and was arrested.  Later, he was prosecuted and found not guilty.  Jacobs filed a lawsuit against Bonser and her friend, alleging malicious prosecution, false arrest and assault and battery.  The jury found in favor of Jacobs on the malicious prosecution and false arrest claims against both defendants and the battery claim against Bonser.  The jury awarded no actual damages but $500 in punitive damages as to the battery claim, $26.15 actual damages and $3500 in punitive damages from each defendant for the false imprisonment claim and $2,795 from both defendants jointly for the malicious prosecution claim, plus costs.  The Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Division Four, reversed the award of punitive damages because there was no award of actual damages.  The Court of Appeals affirmed the finding that the smokers are liable for the false arrest in that they “instigated, caused or procured the arrest.”  The award for the false imprisonment claim and the malicious prosecution claim were upheld.

46 S.W.3d 41, 2001 Mo. App. LEXIS 557 (Mo. Ct. App. 2001).