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CRUELTY Definition & Legal Meaning

Definition & Citations:

The Intentional and malicious infliction of physical suffering upon living creatures, particularly human beings; or, as applied to the latter, the wanton, malicious, and unnecessary infliction of pain upon the body, or the feelings and emotions; abusive treatment; inhumanity; outrage. Chiefly used in the law of divorce, in such phrases as “cruel and abusive treatment,” “cruel and barbarous treatment,” or “cruel and inhuman treatment,” as to the meaning of which, and of “cruelty” in this sense, see May v. May, 62 Pa. 206; Waldron v. Waldron, 85 Cal. 251, 24 Pac. 049, 9 L. R. A. 48T; Ring v. Ring, 118 Ga. 183, 44 S. E. 801, 62 L. R. A. 878; Sharp v. Sharp, 16 111. App. 348; Myrick v. Myrick, 67 Ga. 771; Shell v. Shell, 2 Sneed (Tenn.) 716; Vignos v. Vignos, 15 III. 180; Poor v. Poor, 8 N. II. 307, 29 Am. Dec. 604; Goodrich v. Goodrich, 44 Ala. 670; Bailey v. Bailey, 97 Mass. 373; Close v. Close, 25 N. J. Eq. 520; Cole v. Cole, 23 Iowa. 433; Turner v. Turner. 122 Iowa, 113. 97 N. W. 997; Levin v. Levin, 68 S. C. 123, 40 S. E. 945. As between husband and wife. Those acts which affect the life, the health, or even the comfort, of the party aggrieved and give a reasonable apprehension of bodily hurt, are called “cruelty.” What merely wounds the feelings is seldom admitted to be cruelty, unless the act be accompanied with bodily injury, either actual or menaced. Mere austerity of temper, petulance of manners, rudeness of language, a want of civil attention and accommodation, even occasional sallies of passion, will not amount to legal cruelty; a fortiori, the denial of little indulgences and particular accommodations, which the delicacy of the world is apt to number among its necessaries, is not cruelty. The negative descriptions of cruelty are perhaps the best, under the infinite variety of cases that may occur, by showing what is not cruelty. Evans v. Evans, 1 Hagg. Const. 35; Westmeath v. Westmeath, 4 Eng. Ecc. 238, 311. 312. Cruelty includes both willfulness and malicious temper of mind with which an act is done, as well as a high degree of pain inflicted. Acts merely accidental, though they inflict great pain, are not “cruel,” in the sense of the word as used in statutes against cruelty. Comm. v. Me- Clellan, 101 Mass. 34.


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