Assault and Battery on Property

24 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2010 Last revised: 25 Apr 2011

Date Written: September 27, 2010


Both criminal and tort law seek, in part, to respond to the harm inflicted on persons’ organic, human bodies, through hitting, offensive groping, rape, stabbing, gunshots, vehicular homicide, and more. But could there be such a thing as assault and battery on a person’s inorganic, non-human body? A battery on one’s prosthetic arm, on one’s wheelchair, one’s cochlear implant? Even a battery on one’s iPhone or computer, which some users have provocatively begun to call their “exobrain”?

For instance, is it a battery if a gang of thugs smashes a man’s prosthetic arm to bits while the arm is detached from his body and he is outside the room? If the company that made the arm “bricks” it in response to the man’s violation of an end user license agreement (EULA) that he signed when he purchased the arm?

In this article, I investigate whether there is any use in employing metaphors such as “exobrain,” “battery on a wheelchair,” and the like. I first argue that the metaphors are not entirely fanciful because the social, as opposed to pre-social, body is the body that matters, and there is no clear-cut definition of what our culture considers to be part of the social body. I then explore what is gained, and potentially lost, by calling an iPhone an “exobrain,” rather than merely a “very important piece of property.”

Suggested Citation

Ramachandran, Gowri, Assault and Battery on Property (September 27, 2010). Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review, Vol. 44, 2010, Available at SSRN:

Gowri Ramachandran (Contact Author)

Southwestern Law School ( email )

3050 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010
United States

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