Alice v. Bob

In August 2065 the civil bench of the Elysian Supreme Court issued a notorious verdict, commonly known as the Alice v. Bob 2065 case.

Note: Alice and Bob are common Elysian placeholder names, used to refer to ordinary members of the public. Because of the privacy of the litigants in this case, the clerks of the Supreme Court have decided to anonymize their names.


Alice is a legal immigrant worker and has been employed by Bob as his live-in maid since 2061. However, in spring 2064 she sued her employer in civil court.

Claim by plaintiff:

The plaintiff claims that the defendant physically assaulted her on the night of January 4, 2064. According to her she had returned late from “a girls night” with a couple of friends. Her employer had ordered her to be back home by 0:00, to her own accord she returned home no sooner than 0:30.

The defendant was not amused by this transgression and decided to punish the plaintiff. According to her, he ordered to lower her pants and to bend over a chair. Subsequently he delivered twelve strokes with a rattan cane on her bare buttocks.

Though the plaintiff admits to have deserved some punishment, she argues that getting caned was beyond all reasonable ways of discipline. Consequently she demands monetary damages from the defendant, equal to two months of her regular wage.

Claim by the defendant:

The defendant admits to the fact he had inflicted corporal punishment upon the plaintiff. However, he argues that he and the plaintiff had made a “spanking agreement” back in 2061. Therefore the plaintiff had agreed to corporal punishment and in fact she had submitted herself to getting spanked on numerous occasions before – without any complaint.

Consequently the defendant argues that this caning was appropriate in their specific relationship and hence her claim is without merit.

Counter-argument plaintiff:

The plaintiff admits that she had a spanking agreement with her employer and that she had accepted spankings before. However, she makes two objection to the defendant’s argument.

First, the previous spankings were all inflicted by his hand and no implement was used. So caning was not an appropriate way of punishment.

Secondly, the spanking agreement is not legally enforceable and hence is no valid defense in court.

Counter-argument defendant:

The defendant admits that the previous spankings were hand spankings. But their agreement clearly provides in the use of implements to punish her, therefore her first objection makes no sense.

Court opinion:

The court establishes that Elysian labour law does authorize employers to discipline their employees with reasonable means. Corporal punishment is, however, no reasonable means of discipline. But in this case the plaintiff had given explicit prior permission to be subjected to such kind of punishment.

Also the plaintiff misunderstands the concept of unenforceability in contract law. An unenforceable contract is not invalid per se but such contract can not be enforced court. In concreto, Bob could not have sued Alice in court for refusing to receive a spanking.

Because the plaintiff had accepted corporal punishment in the past, the validity of this spanking agreement is out of the question. Though the plaintiff could have lawfully refused the caning at the moment, her factual cooperation means that this particular caning was not against the law.

Therefore no wrong has been committed by the defendant and hence there is no basis in law to award any damages to the plaintiff.

Public reaction:

The public reacted with mixed opinions to the conclusions of the court. Some people were heavily against Bob and about ten thousand signatures were raised to ban “spanking agreements” but to no avail. Others argued that Alice’s case was rightfully dismissed.

On questions by the press on why she did not pursue criminal charges against Bob for domestic violence, she refused to answer. According to legal scholars that approach would more likely to have resulted in a conviction of Bob. Though one law professor doubts this line of reasoning, given Bob’s defence.

Despite criticism of this case by some parts of the public, the Elysian Senate refused to pass any legislation on the issue. According to several leading politicians this case is highly idiosyncretic and hence no reason for political concern.


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