We’re going to fast-forward several issues from #29 to #45-46. Although not a whole lot developed in the lawsuit storyline in the intervening issues, a few important events occurred. (Thanks to reader Methane for the highlights).
Smoak, now apparently out of the job as a result of the damage to computer company, has taken a new job with the same newspaper that employs Ronald Raymond’s father, Ed. (Recall that Ronald Raymond is one half of the two people that combine to form Firestorm.). Later, they start dating and become engaged. Smoak manages to personally serve Firestorm with a complaint in the lawsuit. And Ed meets Smoak’s lawyer, who points out that if Firestorm doesn’t show up to the trial, the court may issue a default judgment against him.
In issue #45 we get a classic awkward dinner scene: Ed and Felicity have dinner with Ronald and his girlfriend, Doreen. Here we learn some important details about what happened when Firestorm rescued a freight train (destroying a shipment of computer disks in the process) and foiled some villains atop the WTC (wiping the computers in the building in the process). First, a bit about default judgments.
I. Default Judgments
Smoak’s lawyer is right. Since Firestorm was actually and personally served with process, a default judgment would likely be granted if he failed to appear. N.Y. Civil Practice Law & Rules § 3215(a). The trick would be enforcing the judgment, since Firestorm doesn’t have a known address or assets. Smoak had to flag him down just to deliver the complaint.
II. The New Details
From the dinner conversation we learn that insurance policies do not cover “super-heroics” by default, and apparently most people don’t get such coverage. As a result, the loss of the freight train cargo was not covered by insurance. We also learn that the company kept backups at the central office in Manhattan. Finally, we learn that when Firestorm magnetized the roof, not only did it wipe the memory of the computers in the office, it also rendered them nonfunctional (“useless, broken beyond repair”).
This resolves several debates from the comments on prior posts. Insurance didn’t apply, and there would have been significant damages regardless of the presence or absence of off-site backups. In fact, the damages may have been significant enough to ruin the company. Without insurance to cover the loss, there may not have been enough cash on hand to cover replacing the computers in the office fast enough to get the company up and running again (remember: this is the mid-1980s, when an ordinary business desktop cost $8700 in today’s money). So the company’s bankruptcy and Smoak’s estimate of the damages all seem reasonable, even if her claim against Firestorm still rests on somewhat shaky legal and factual ground.
III. A Tort and A Crime
Later, in Fury of Firestorm #46, Ed, Ronald, and Felicity are at a computer trade expo in Pittsburgh when suddenly a Lovecraftian horror appears and seizes several people, including Ed. Rather than risk Felicity seeing him transform into Firestorm, Ronald punches her out cold and then deals with the monster. The monster was actually an illusion created by some other villains, but let’s take a moment to consider this one.
Ronald’s stated justification for punching Felicity is that he needs to get her to safety (she appears to be reaching for Ed as the monster carries him away). I don’t think the “I had to punch Felicity to save her” defense is going to fly. He didn’t even seriously attempt to talk to her or even physically restrain her before assaulting her. And in any case, while such restraint might be justified in the case of an attempted suicide, I don’t think it could be justified in the case of an attempted rescue of another person, however dangerous.
And Ronald’s actual justification is, of course, nonsense. While Ronald certainly has a right to save his father and the other bystanders, and he may even have some limited right to keep his identity as Firestorm a secret. But neither of those rights extend as far as proactively rendering people unconscious in order to protect his secret so that he can transform in a public place. I didn’t pick up issue #47, but I’m curious to see if the writers addressed Felicity’s reaction after she came-to.
In sum: Ronald straight up committed the tort of battery and some sort of criminal assault.
Smoak’s case is on somewhat firmer ground, and Ronald has further established himself as a grade-A jerk. If you had much sympathy for Firestorm (or at least Ronald) going into this series, I suspect it has been severely diminished by now. Stay-tuned for the next post, when we finally get to the big event: the trial!