California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, First Division
In re the Marriage of VALERIE and LOUIS GRISSOM. VALERIE GRISSOM, Appellant,
LOUIS GRISSOM, Respondent.
from an order of the Superior Court of San Diego County No.
D558422, Paula S. Rosenstein, Judge. Affirmed.
Temko and Stephen Temko for Appellant.
Klein for Respondent.
of marital dissolution proceedings, appellant Valerie Grissom
sought a domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) against
her husband, respondent Louis Grissom, alleging he physically
injured her during confrontations between them. On appeal,
Valerie contends the court erred in concluding that, because
her injuries were suffered during and as a result of physical
confrontations she instigated, they did not constitute "
'abuse' " within the meaning of Family
Code section 6203, part of the Domestic
Violence Prevention Act (§ 6200 et seq.).
section 6203 defines abuse to include an intentionally or
recklessly caused bodily injury to the complainant, a finding
of abuse is not mandated merely because the complainant shows
he or she suffered an injury caused by the other party.
Instead, fundamental and well-established principles allow a
victim of physical aggression to employ reasonable force to
defend his or her person or property against the aggressor,
even when such reasonable force causes some bodily injury to
the aggressor. The trial court properly recognized that a
person who responds reasonably to an aggressor in this way
does not commit abuse within the meaning of section 6203.
Accordingly, we affirm the order.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
filed her petition for dissolution, requesting legal and
physical custody of their son and seeking child support. At
the same time, she filed an application for a DVRO, asking
for a "Stay-Away" order protecting herself, her
son, and her own mother from Louis. Valerie's application
asserted, among other things, that Louis had inflicted
physical injuries on her. Louis filed written opposition to
the DVRO and also requested joint legal and physical custody.
He denied he was a violent person, instead asserting that
Valerie was mercurial and abusive toward him. He supported
his assertions by recounting many instances in which Valerie
initiated aggression against him and his property.
evidentiary hearing on Valerie's application for a DVRO,
the evidence showed Valerie and Louis argued about many
matters. Valerie testified that during some of the
confrontations, she suffered physical injuries as the result
of Louis physically assaulting her. She introduced
photographs showing bruising to her arms, a bruise of her
thumb caused when he bit her, a scraped knee, and a bruised
arm and chin. She claimed Louis was the person who initiated
the physical aggression on each of the incidents resulting in
testified he never hit Valerie and did not have an anger
problem, but that Valerie had struck him on several
occasions. He explained that the first series of photographs
introduced by Valerie, showing bruising to her arms and thumb
as well as the scraped knee, appeared to reflect injuries she
sustained during an August 2015 confrontation. The incident
began when Valerie took Louis's work laptop and hid it
from him. He described this as a "very typical
tactic" she used to gain control when she was upset with
him. She would take his cell phone or laptop and not reveal
where she hid them until he yielded to her demands.
particular occasion, however, Louis was able to find its
hiding place (in their bedroom) without her assistance.
Valerie got angry when he located the laptop and blocked the
bedroom doorway. When Louis tried to leave the room, she
physically grappled with him trying to take the laptop from
his hands. He held the laptop behind his back to keep her
from getting it, and she wrapped her arms around him trying
to gain control of his arms and wrest the laptop away from
him. After 15 to 20 seconds of struggling proved
unsuccessful, Valerie became even angrier. She spat in his
face, then covered Louis's mouth and nose with her hand.
Louis felt he could not release the laptop because he feared
she might damage it if she gained control over
it. When his efforts to twist his head
around to free his mouth and nose from her grip were
unsuccessful, he "nipped" her thumb to free his
breathing passage. He did not bite hard, but claimed he used
the least amount of pressure necessary to free his airways.
continued struggling for the laptop, they fell onto the bed.
Valerie hit her knee on the bed frame and she blamed him for
the scraped knee, saying "Look at what you did."
The fall and knee injury ended Valerie's struggle to get
last series of confrontations before Louis moved out of their
home occurred in November 2015. An argument that had begun
earlier the preceding day spilled over into the early morning
hours of November 24. Around 1:00 a.m., Louis was in the
garage at his desk on the computer when Valerie entered and
renewed the earlier argument. She snatched his cell phone
from the desk, went around to the other side of the car, and
began thumbing through the contents. Louis remained sitting
at his desk and did not respond.
returned to the desk. When she got near enough, Louis was
able to quickly reach out and cleanly snatch the cell phone
from her hand. Valerie aggressively tried to regain control
of the phone while Louis held it away from her grasp. He told
her to stop, to get off him, that she was hurting him and she
needed to stop, ...