A Legal Analysis of the Wizard of Oz. What Happens When the Wicked Witch Sues Dorothy?
In the First Oz Court for the District of MunchkinLand
Wicked Witch of the West
Dorothy Gale, et al.
Decision and Order of the Court On Cross Motions for Summary Judgment
Judge Marvel writing,
The matter before this court involves a series of complex events recorded in the documentary The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, a movie produced in the mundane world. The parties in this matter have stipulated this documentary is substantially accurate. Except as otherwise noted in the decision below, this court takes judicial notice as to the accuracy of this documentary and rules as a matter of law on cross motions for summary judgment as there remain no material facts in dispute.
Facts and Positions of the Parties.
In this matter the Wicked Witch of the West has sued one Dorothy Gale (and an odd assortment of three friends). Witch sues Gale, a young lady from the star of Kansas, alleging the wrongful death of her sister (the Wicked Witch of the East), trespass to land (her castle and haunted forest), trespass and wrongful conversion of chattel (a pair of ruby slippers and a broomstick), and finally for a grievous alleged battery that liquidated the plaintiff . While this liquidation (contrary to the impression of the documentary) did not permanently kill the Wicked Witch, she describes it as very painful, humiliating, and argues it caused great loss of property as it freed her slave armies of Winkies and Flying Monkeys.
The Wicked Witch asserts that Gale maliciously dropped a house on her sister, killing her. She further avers that Gale then conspired with one Glinda (the Good Witch of the North) to wrongly appropriate a pair of ruby slippers belonging to the deceased sister and which by right of inheritance are and were rightfully property of the Plaintiff. The Wicked Witch alleges that Gale then trespassed on Witch’s property (the haunted forest), invaded her castle, and that this was done with the knowing purpose of killing Witch to further steal her property, one flying broomstick. Witch asserts that during this gang assault on her property Gale intentionally threw water on her, causing her grievous harm.
For her part, Gale denies all the above allegations. Gale asserts the death of the Wicked Witch of the East was due to cyclonic forces of nature over which Gale had no control. Gale claims the Wicked Witch of the East’s own recklessness in operating a flying broomstick in the middle of a cyclone caused her death.
The acquisition of the ruby slippers gives Gale more difficulty and leads to a procedural complication in this case. Gale alleges she had nothing to do with the ruby slippers being placed upon her, asserting that Glinda magically placed the slippers on her feet without Gale’s consent. Gale has accordingly cross-sued Glinda for the alleged battery of forcing the shoes onto Gales feet and for wrongful imprisonment within the shoes as Gale could not remove them once on.
As to other trespass allegations, Gale notes these incidents occurred only after the Witch attempted deadly assault against the Scarecrow (fireball), poisoned Gale with magic Poppies, and wrote a highly threatening note in the skies above the Emerald City. Gale further asserts she was legally authorized to intrude on the Witch’s property by the sovereign Wizard of Oz.
In response to the claim that Gale intentionally assaulted the Witch with the devastating water, Gale claims she was not acting to assault the Witch, but only to save the life of her friend, the Scarecrow, who the Witch had set on fire with a torch.
For her part, Gale counterclaims against the Witch for battery, wrongful imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Gale alleges the witch sent an Army of Flying Monkeys which kidnapped her and carried her against her will to the Witch’s castle where the Witch then imprisoned her. She alleges Witch then threatened and attempted to kill her (and her little dog too) when the sands of a large hourglass ran empty. Dale notes that the Witch even cruelly taunted her with visions of her Auntie calling for her in a magic crystal.
Claims By the Witch Against Dorothy and Glinda.
Witch’s wrongful death claim against Gale is in defiance of the facts observed from the documentary. Gale had no control of the cyclone and was herself imperiled, hurt and nearly killed by it. Gale herself was a victim of the same natural forces which killed Wicked Witch’s sister. Accordingly, the wrongful death action against Gale is DISMISSED.
The claim of wrongful appropriation of the Ruby Slippers is more perplexing for this court. The death of Wicked Witch of the East is not disputed. The Munkin Coroner thoroughly examined her and determined that she was not just merely dead, but really most sincerely dead. Accordingly, title to the Ruby Slippers would pass according to the laws of inheritance. While no Will has been filed in this case, the laws of intestate succession would make the Wicked Witch of the West the next legal heir.
Notwithstanding efforts by Glinda and Gale to assert that at the time ownership of the Slippers was ambiguous, what is clear is that neither Glinda nor Gale had any right to the Slippers at the time Glinda magiked the Slippers onto Gales feet. If nothing else the Slippers belonged at the time in the trust of the Wicked Witch of the East’s estate until title could be determined according to law.
However, Gale is correct in asserting she had no role in the placement of the Slippers on her feet. Gale did not even at first know the Slippers had been placed there and seemed genuinely surprised (and not necessarily approving) of Glinda’s unilateral decision to place them there. Thus, Gale committed no act to acquire the Slippers and cannot be said to have acted intentionally to take them.
Counsel for the Witch argues that Gale acquiesced to the theft of the Slippers, as she fled Munkinland giving the appearance of following Glinda’s orders to never return the Slippers to the Wicked Witch. In response, this the Court notes that Gale’s destination was the high sovereign, the Wizard of Oz, where legal ownership could be established. This Court also notes that events later established the powerful magic employed by Glinda prevented Gale from voluntarily removing the Slippers.
This Court finds that Gale is not responsible for the wrongful appropriation of the Slippers. The conversion related allegations against Gale are DISMISSED.
However, this Court also finds that Glinda wrongfully appropriated the Slippers with the intent of denying them to their rightful owner. The Court orders that the Slippers be promptly turned over to the Wicked Witch of the West. This Court further orders that Glinda serve the Wicked Witch of the West as her slave, as punitive damages for this offense, for one year.
The Witch’s claim that Dorothy trespassed to the Castle is frivolous. Gale was brought by force to the Castle by the Witch’s Flying Monkey minions on orders of the Witch. Gales friends then intruded on the Castle to rescue Dorothy who they reasonably (and as it turned our accurately) believed was in danger of being killed by the Witch. This made any trespass on their part excused as in defense of others. Accordingly, all claims related to the alleged trespass into the Castle are DISMISSED.
Witch argues that even if the trespass into the Castle is dismissed that the intrusion into the Haunted Forest cannot be justified. Witch notes that the Haunted Forest was clearly marked with strongly worded notices discouraging intrusion. The Witch argues the intrusion was particularly inexcusable as it was part of a malicious plot to kill the Witch and steal her broom.
Witch certainly has a point here. That Defendants intended to take the broom and killing the witch as part of that quest is certainly suggested by the record. The Court also notes that accepting Defendants’ excuse of being on a quest authorized by the Wizard would deny the Witch her property rights without due process of law.
However, when the events are placed in the context of the Witch previously attempting to kill the Scarecrow with a ball of fire, poisoning Defendants with poppies, and the potentially threatening scrawling above the Emerald City, her case becomes less sympathetic. This Court finds the Defendants did commit technical trespass of the Haunted Forest. However, given the technical nature of the violation, and the Witch’s prior overt acts against Defendants, and the Witch’s over reaction to the trespass, this Court finds that equity demands leniency. Accordingly, the Court orders the Defendants only to return the Wicked Witch’s broom and clean any remaining Scarecrow hay from her property.
As to the alleged conversion of the Witch’s broomstick, the Court notes that at the time the Witch appeared dead. Defendants did not keep the broomstick for themselves, but rather returned it to the sovereign for disposition. Under the circumstances, the Defendants acted appropriately and within the law. Further, any wrong in this regard has been corrected by the Court’s judgment above returning the broomstick to witch. Accordingly, all claims related to conversion of the broomstick are DISMISSED.
The final allegation is that of battery against the Witch by dousing her with water. The Court takes note that the Witch suffered grievous bodily harm from this act and accepts that the process of being melted is extremely discomforting and humiliating. While the court is less sympathetic to her alleged property damages in the loss of her slave Winkie and Flying Monkey armies, the loss in stature and reputation of the Wicked Witch is duly noted.
However, Dorothy’s claim that she acted to save the life of the Scarecrow is valid. The Witch used deadly force against the Scarecrow by setting him on fire and thereby invited a rescue response from Dorothy that would quite reasonably and expectantly include the use of water. In short, the Witch brought this disaster on herself with her own unjustified deadly use of force against another. While the record suggests that Dorothy had no idea the water would liquidate the Witch, even if Dorothy had such knowledge her actions would be excused because it is permitted to use deadly force in defense of another when another is the target of an unlawful deadly attack. Accordingly, the Witch’s claim against Dorothy for battery is DISMISSED.
Gale’s Claims Against Wicked Witch.
Gale makes many claims against the Wicked Witch some valid and others not.
First, the Wicked Witch magically poisoned poppies as Gale and her friends approached the Emerald City. This poisoning caused Gale to lose consciousness. The Witch claims this was a reasonable application of less than deadly force to recover the stolen property of her slippers. Less than deadly force is generally permitted to recover property when it does not result in a breach of the peace.
However, a battery is a breach of the peace. It does not matter under the law that the battery lacked elements of physical violence or force. The right to preservation of the integrity of one’s body is greater than the right to recover property. Accordingly, the Witch is liable to Gale for this battery.
Gale next claims the threat posted in the skies above Emerald City constituted both assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress. While, a close call, this court disagrees.
Assault requires an intentional act that places another in reasonable apprehension of an imminent battery. Gale claims the Surrender Dorothy message did just that and the documentary indicates that fear was apparent. However, the fear must be of an imminent battery, and at that time Gale was safely residing in the Emerald City where she had received strong assurances of her safety. The Witch made no overt act to attack and never otherwise approached. The claim of assault for the writings above the Emerald City is DISMISSED.
As to intentional infliction of emotional distress, that is strongly tied to the assault allegation. The Witch also argues that ”Surrender Dorothy” could reasonably be interpreted, under the circumstances, as a short hand request for Dorothy to surrender the Slippers, which this Court has noted were wrongly taken. Intentional infliction of emotional distress requires that the act be outrageous and clearly calculated to inflict severe emotional distress. The court agrees the Witch’s smoke signals could be viewed as a reasonable effort to demand the return of her Slippers. Accordingly, the claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress for the writing above Emerald City is DISMISSED.
Gale next argues that she was subject to battery and wrongful imprisonment by the Witchs minions, the Flying Monkeys. There is no doubt that the Witch ordered the Flying Monkeys to attack Gale and her party, that they did so without warning, and that they seized Gale and flew her back to the Castle.
The Witch attempts to excuse this deplorable attack as justified by her defending her property from trespass. That argument might be more persuasive had Witch’s Monkeys removed Gale from the property. Instead, they flew Gale further into the property and imprisoned her. It was clear Gale was not free to leave and she was in fact locked in a room of the castle until rescued.
This Court finds the Witch liable for battery in the Haunted Forest and for the Wrongful Imprisonment of Gale.
Gale next alleges that while the Witch illegally confined her the Witch assaulted her by threatening to kill her. The Witch dramatically turned an hourglass announcing that Gale (and her little dog too) would die (presumably by magic) when the sand ran out. During that time the Witch then tormented Gale by displaying visions of her Auntie calling out to her.
The Court finds these acts outrageous. The Witch’s only defense is that she wanted her Slippers back. Notwithstanding the unquestioned value of magical ruby slippers, that provides no excuse under the law. Deadly force may not be used to recover property, and the Witch had every intent and capability of killing Gale. Gale was placed in reasonable apprehension that said deadly force was imminent.
The Witch’s tormenting of Gale with visions of her Auntie were unnecessarily cruel and cannot be remotely justified as directed at recovering the Slippers. The only apparent purpose of this act was to inflict severe emotional distress on Gale and the Witch’s conduct is shocking to the conscience of reasonable people.
Accordingly, the Witch is liable for a heinous assault on Dorothy and for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
As described above, the Wicked Witch is liable for multiple accounts of assault, battery, wrongful imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Dorothy. This Court questions the Wicked Witch’s wisdom in bringing this action and thereby inviting the valid counterclaims. In any event, the Court awards to Dorothy as follows:
1. The broomstick, previously awarded by this Court to the Witch, is hereby ordered forfeited to Gale so that Gale may fly over the rainbow, whenever her heart desires, and visit again her friends in Oz. The Court notes this star named Kansas appears to be a dreary, uncolorful and undesirable place.
2. The Castle, and adjoining properties to include the Haunted Forest, that Witch applied such excessive force to protect, are hereby forfeited to Gale.
3. The Witch is condemned to manage the Gulch farm, in the dreary land of Kansas, and to allow Toto into the garden of said farm at any time.
Gale’s Cross Action Against Glinda.
Gale also by cross lawsuit seeks remedy for Glinda forcing the Ruby Slippers onto her feet and preventing her from removing them. Gale asserts these acts constituted battery, and rather innovatively, also asserts wrongful imprisonment on the theory Glinda confined Gale to the Slippers. As discussed above, the Slippers were not Glinda’s to give, and even if they were, she could not force them on another. In response Glinda offers only the excuse that the Wizard gave her MunkinLand to protect and rule and that she was acting in that capacity.
The Court rejects that defense. Nothing in the Wizard’s general grant of administrative authority over MunkinLand gives Glinda the unilateral right to arbitrarily seize property without due process. Nor does the Wizard’s authority allow Glinda to commit an obvious battery by forcing a visitor from a far away star to wear Slippers that do not belong to her and to compel that visitor through force of magic to continue wearing them. While the wrongful imprisonment in the Slippers may be a bit of a legal reach, it is certainly an aggravation of the battery.
The Court finds this even more disturbing because Glinda is the putative Good Witch. The Wicked Witch of the West is at least rather open about her wickedness while Glinda claims to be good, but does not act accordingly.
This Court seeks to ensure that visitors to MunchkinLand are never again subjected to this erstwhile Good Witch’s arbitrary machinations. Accordingly, the stewardship of MunchkinLand is hereby forfeited by Glinda and granted to Gale and her friends. This Court has no doubt that Gale shall be a welcome heroine and highly respected by MunchkinKind and hopes she, and others, often visit Munchkinland to see her bust.
s/ Judge Marvel.