Can my friend sue me for breaking his nose if it was self defense?

My friend wants to sue me for breaking his nose one night when we were sleeping in a hotel room. This occurred after we were sleeping, he kept pushing me off of the bed, I then poked him with a pencil when he proceeded to punch me. I in turn punched him back and broke his nose. Is this grounds to sue me? It has been nearly 3 months since the incident.

Asked on June 12, 2012 under Personal Injury, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

If you injure someone intentionally, such as with a punch, they may sue you for medical costs, lost wages, and (for serious injuries) pain and suffering. If you believe it was self-defense, you can raise that as an affirmative defense, and if the court believes it was in fact self-defense, you should not be liable.

Based on what you write, I do not think a court would consider this self-defense: it sounds as if there was a confrontation which you could be considered to have instigated, by jabbing him with a pencil. Also, self defense is not retaliastion--it is defense against an imminent or ongoing attack. If he punched you but that was that, you are not necessarily entitled to punch him back.

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