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McNeil v. Parker - 169 Ga. App. 756, 315 S.E.2d 270 (1984)

Rule:

Ga. Code Ann. § 16-3-21(a) provides in part that a person is justified in threatening or using force against another when and to the extent that he or she reasonably believes that such threat or force is necessary to defend himself or herself against such other's imminent use of unlawful force. This criminal statute supplies the basis of justification that a person who has committed a battery may assert as a defense in a civil suit over the battery.This doctrine of self defense, however, may not be invoked where the defendant's own acts of aggression brought about the difficulty with the plaintiff, unless the defendant has retreated in good faith intending to abandon the confrontation.Such questions of reasonable belief, necessary or unnecessary force, initial aggression, and retreat are ordinarily issues of fact reserved for jury resolution. 

Facts:

McNeil and Parker were neighbors. After McNeil’s wife asked Parker’s daughter not to cut across their yard, Parker went to McNeil’s house to discuss the issue. Parker was angry that McNeil discussed the issue with his daughter rather than with him. McNeil alleged that Parker was the aggressor and that Parker struck him without provocation. Parker alleged that McNeil was the aggressor, and that after the heated discussion terminated, as he turned around to leave, McNeil had grabbed him by the chest as if to spin him around. Parker believed that McNeil was about to strike him, so he fended off McNeil and struck him with his right fist. At the time of the incident, McNeil was 62 years old and Parker was 38 years old. McNeil commenced an action against Parker to recover damages. McNeil appealed after the jury returned a verdict for Parker. McNeil contended not only that Parker was the initial aggressor but that the amount of force he used exceeded that necessary to defend himself.

Issue:

Was the jury’s acceptance of Parker’s asserted self-defense proper?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The Court held that O.C.G.A. § 16-3-21 (a) (Code Ann. § 26-902) provides in part that "[a] person is justified in threatening or using force against another when and to the extent that he reasonably believes that such threat or force is necessary to defend himself . . . against such other's imminent use of unlawful force . . ." This criminal statute supplies the basis of justification that a person who has committed a battery may assert as a defense in a civil suit over the battery.  This doctrine of self defense, however, may not be invoked where the defendant's own acts of aggression brought about the difficulty with the plaintiff, unless the defendant has retreated in good faith intending to abandon the confrontation. 

Such questions of reasonable belief, necessary or unnecessary force, initial aggression, and retreat are ordinarily issues of fact reserved for jury resolution. The instant case was such a case, and the evidence was sufficient to authorize the jury's acceptance of Parker’s asserted self defense.

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