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In 1872, the Supreme Court of Illinois decided a case called Alcorn v Mitchell. It was not the first litigation between the parties. Some years earlier, Alcorn had sued Mitchell for trespass. That suit did not go well, and at the close of the trial, just after the court adjourned, Alcorn spit in Mitchell’s face. Mitchell then turned the tables and sued Alcorn for battery. He won a judgment for $1,000, which was a lot of money back then—depending on how you think about the change in value of money over time, the present day equivalent would range from just about $20,000 to a bit more than $250,000. Alcorn appealed. The question put to the Illinois Supreme Court was whether he had “been made to pay too dearly for [his] indulgence.”


Reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press.