The Shimamotos -- puncher and punchee -- have now sued the airline in federal court, claiming that United is responsible for Mr. Shimamoto's actions because its employees served him numerous glasses of wine during the flight from Osaka. (Presumably, he had asked for them, but the report didn't say.) According to the complaint, United knew or should have known that the negligent overservice "would have negative consequences," e.g. wife-punching, and so is responsible for those consequences.
There are "dram shop" laws in most states that allow people to sue in some cases for harm caused by intoxicated patrons, but typically these lawsuits are against bars and/or brought by third parties, not the person who caused the injury. As a professor quoted by the Chicago Tribune put it, "Generally, the courts have not been receptive to people saying, 'I asked for the drink and you gave it to me.'" There is also a question whether these U.S. laws would apply, given that the serving of the alcohol took place over the Pacific Ocean, though the beating of the wife took place in U.S. territory.
So, Mrs. Shimamoto might have a claim, but it seems unlikely a jury would have much sympathy for her husband, who was charged and convicted of the battery. Plaintiffs, however, are optimistically asking for (among other damages) the costs of Mr. Shimamoto's legal defense, including $100,000 for his bail money, and costs incurred due to his sentence (18 months of probation).
Maybe these two went through a rough patch, but nothing helps a couple reconcile like a good lawsuit. Against a third party, that is.
Link: Chicago Tribune