Federal Judge James Bredar ruled that sending a flashing GIF which caused a seizure can be considered a battery. John Rivello sent the flashing GIF to journalist Kurt Eichenwald along with the message, “You deserve a seizure for your posts.” Rivello argued that because there was no physical contact it could not be a battery but the plaintiff alleged that the light waves touched his retina, generated an electric signal, and caused the seizure and the Judge agreed pointing to cases of second-hand smoke, electric shock, and loud noises. This is an example of how sometimes the interpretation of the law is limited to your imagination.
Pursuant to Florida Statute 784.03, the crime of battery occurs when a person:
- Actually and intentionally touches or strikes another person against the will of the other; or
- Intentionally causes bodily harm to another person.
While we don’t think a prosecutor would bring criminal charges like this in Florida, they could try based on the second element of the statute requiring only intentional bodily harm. Individuals could potentially seek civil remedies if this case were to be upheld. There is no doubt that a decision like this will be appealed and if it is upheld it could have a lasting effect on the types of cases coming into the justice system. It can potentially pack the courts with cases that have no merit but because of this ruling, can still be brought. No one told Mr. Eichenwald that he had to view the message but certainly Mr. Rivello’s accompanying words are damaging.