An article was recently published revealing new methods being used to prevent cellular phone use while in a theater. The need is obviously there. Everyone hates being in a movie when the person in front of you turns on his or her cell phone screen and answers text after text, or at a local musical and having a phone ring in the middle of song. In both situations the problem is annoying and rude.
To deal with this problem, workers at theaters in China are employing lasers to dissuade phone use. No, these are not the kind of weaponized lasers being developed by military assets across the country and in sci-fi films. Workers are using simple pointer lasers to stop annoying cellular phone use.
According to reports, if you are at a particular theater in China, and use your phone, an usher will shine the laser pointer at you to get you to stop. This draws attention to the action, and shames the person into stop using a cell phone. While use of these tactics is apparently legal and condoned in at least some parts of China, the question arises of whether it would be legal in America.
Legality of Laser Use
It is doubtful whether this practice of using laser pointers to shame people into not using their electronic devices will ever be introduced in the United States. Setting aside any criminal laws such practices might break, our system of civil laws would surely prevent laser use. At the core of our civil system designed to prevent and compensate for intentional injuries caused by other is causes of action for assault or battery.
The simple definition for assault is an act contact that puts another in immediate apprehension of an harmful or offensive contact. A battery under the civil legal system is an intentional harmful or offensive contact. To be classified as a battery, the contact can be made using an instrument or device, and a laser would count as well.
If you were in a theater and a worker was instructed to use a laser pointer to shame you into stop using your cell phone, once that laser made contact with you, it would be a battery. Laser pointers can cause injury to an eye, and it would be offensive to be contacted in that way by a stranger or employee of the company you were patronizing. If a theater began using these tactics, the victims of being pointed at by a laser would begin to sue theater owners en masse.
A scenario could arise where these antics were legal. To do so, every patron going to a theater would have to consent to being pointed at by a laser, and not sue. But if someone were willing to do that, they would not likely use their cell phone or other electronic device to begin with.
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