FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
ALBERT E. CABALLERO, No. 1-88-01705
JAMES R. MELOCHE,
v. A.P. No. 1-88-0204
ALBERT E. CABALLERO,
Memorandum of Decision
This is an action under section 523(a)(6) of the Bankruptcy Code. Plaintiff James Meloche
seeks a nondischargeable judgment for personal injuries he suffered in an altercation outside a
boxing event on June 29, 1985, at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds.
Meloche was one of only four uniformed security guards at the boxing match, which was
attended by about 3,000 persons. Most of the "security" for the event was supplied by untrained
persons identified only by an event T-shirt. Meloche's responsibility was to control access from
a side door into the pavilion.
Defendant Caballero attended the event with a family group of seven or eight, including his
mother. During the main event, a dispute arose between members of Caballero's group and
another group of patrons. When a fight erupted and Caballero came to the defense of a member
of his party, Caballero was grabbed by one of the uniformed security guards and, after a scuffle,
was manhandled by security persons out of the building through the side door where Meloche was
stationed. Caballero was extremely angry at being ejected. While not drunk, he had been drinking
beer and reacted to his ejection very belligerently.
Once outside, Caballero was calmed by one of the "T-shirt" security persons who happened
to be an acquaintance. Caballero had calmed down and was not being restrained when, about a
minute after his ejection, Caballero looked toward more commotion at the door and saw his
brother being manhandled out of the pavilion by one uniformed security guard and four or five
"T-shirt" people. Caballero's brother was placed face down on the ground, with all of the security
people holding him down, while one of the uniformed security guards began to handcuff his hands
behind his back. Meloche knelt down to assist in the handcuffing.
Once the handcuffing was completed, Meloche started to stand up. As he was rising, Caballero
barreled into him and both fell together through a glass window. Meloche's arm was badly cut and
he sustained nerve damage, for which he seeks damages in this action.
Caballero admits that he did attack Meloche, but says he did not intend to harm him but only
to get him off his brother, whom he believed was being treated with excess brutality. While some
of the persons holding the brother down may have been harming him unnecessarily, Meloche
himself had done nothing more than assist in the handcuffing. Caballero defends the action on the
grounds that he did not intend to injure Meloche and that his actions were justified by the distress
of his brother.
Lack of intent to injure is not a defense to an action under section 523(a)(6). When a wrongful
act is done intentionally and it is the sort of act which necessarily causes harm, there is liability
even without a specific intent to injure. In re Cecchini
(9th Cir.1985) 772 F.2d 1493, 1496; In
(9th Cir.1985) 761 F.2d 1422, 1426. Thus, the mere fact that Caballero intended to
force Meloche off his brother is enough to establish the requisite intent, notwithstanding a lack of
intent to injure Meloche.
Under the test set forth in Cecchini
, the court must find for Meloche unless Caballero's acts
were done with just cause or excuse. The central issue of this case is therefore whether Caballero
was justified in attacking Meloche to protect his brother. The court determines that the attack was
Under analogous state law, and common law, in order to justify the use of force the defendant
must show that he acted to protect his family member from wrongful
injury. See. e.g., California
Civil Code section 50. The court finds that Meloche himself was not using excessive force against
Caballero's brother, and was therefore not wrongfully injuring him. Moreover, Caballero hit
Meloche as Meloche was rising after the handcuffing was completed, at a time when he was no
longer doing anything to the brother. The attack was therefore retribution, not defense.
As a result of his injuries Meloche has suffered some nerve damage to his arm which is
probably permanent. While the injuries do not impair his ability to earn a living, they cause him
pain and inhibit him from undertaking some activities. This impairment, together with the pain and
distress of the injury, the many stitches needed to close the wounds, and the accompanying
emotional distress, justify an award of general damages in the sum of $12,500.00. Meloche shall
also recover his lost wages of $450.00 and medical expenses of $2,300.00. The court further
awards punitive damages of $2,500.00, and costs of suit. The judgment rendered pursuant to this
decision shall be nondischargeable.
Counsel for Meloche shall submit an appropriate form of judgment. This memorandum
constitutes findings and conclusions pursuant to FRCP 52(a) and Bankruptcy Rule 7052.
Dated: August 16, 1989 _______________________