"The cough was not a reflexive action, but rather an intentional physical act."
A man who deliberately coughed on a server in a bar in Calgary has been convicted of assault.
Kyle Pruden, 35, was at the Black Swan Pub in November 2020 when he got into an altercation with a staff member and another customer in the bar, according to court documents.
Pruden was playing on a video lottery terminal and had won $160 but when he went to claim his winnings at the bar, a staff member told him they couldn't pay him until the owner of the bar arrived with cash.
At this point, Pruden took off his mask and started coughing at her, saying "is this because of COVID?"
A customer at the bar, a 60-year-old man, gave Pruden $60 and he left to go to a nearby Boston Pizza for a beer and some pizza.
When he returned a short time later for the rest of his $100 winnings, he mistakenly thought the same customer was a bar employee and started demanding more money from them. After the man told Pruden he had no more money, Pruden hit the man.
Provincial court Judge Heather Lamoureux ruled that "emitting a force consisting of lung air molecules" qualifies as the use of force under the Criminal Code.
"The cough was not a reflexive action, but rather an intentional physical act," Lamoureux added.
In the ruling, the judge noted that there were three other convictions during the COVID-19 pandemic where people had coughed on others.