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Accessible legal tips, know-how and news for anyone with a complaint or legal issue from Stephen Gold, author of The Return of Breaking Law, the book

Tuesday 16 January 2018

Sneezing Revisited

It's not that I am hard up for material to blog about. It's that people are sneezing - and coughing - all over the place and there's a lot of flu about, isn't there? We should all arm ourselves with a handkerchief when we step out of the front door (if not before) - and use it! I am reproducing below an earlier post of mine as an encouragement to being responsible.

Assault By Sneezing

This is the silly season, alright. And this topic may sound silly. But I'm serious 'cos I am fed up to the teeth with being sneezed at wherever I go. We should all keep our germs to ourselves. And if we don't? Well, let's see.

An assault and battery are known to the civil law as a trespass to the person. If an unprotected sneeze is directed into your face then I regard that as such a trespass. It's probably also the tort of negligence. It could be either or both when, though not directly aimed at you, the sneezer is aware of your presence and the sneeze is emitted so close to you that they should have foreseen that you might catch something from them.

Proving that it was a result of the sneeze that you were struck down could be the obstacle to a successful civil claim for damages. You would have to prove that it was more probable than not that the sneeze was the cause of your illness. Physical closeness, the absence of prior symptoms, the velocity of the sneeze and the stage at which the symptoms began to manifest themselves will be among the major factors for consideration. The further away from you was the sneezer, the weaker your case.

A good sneeze can certainly travel at 60 to 80 miles per hour for up to 20 metres but research published in 2015 suggested that droplets from sneezes - and coughs - may travel 200 times further than had been thought. The incubation period for whatever is to follow the sneeze is around 24 to 48 hours.

Of course, you cannot make a civil claim unless you know the identity of the sneezer. Don't attempt a private arrest. For more on overcoming this obstacle and draft particulars of claim for a sneezing claim for damages, see my book Breaking Law. No warranty is given that you will succeed but let's hope someone does..... soon.