#1  
Old 05-16-2018, 09:29 PM
Projammer Projammer is offline
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Legal liability question.

I was rereading the Acts of Gord, a collection of stories about a video game store owner in Canada.

In one of his stories he has acquired an accessory that damages any game system it's plugged into. He leaves it on the counter with the expectation that it will be stolen and then later plugged into a console which will then be broken.

Link

The question of course is what if any liability Gord has for the damaged hardware. I know that mantraps that injure someone will get you sued and probably fined or jailed. But this is just simple property damage.
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  #2  
Old 05-16-2018, 09:30 PM
Projammer Projammer is offline
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Oops. I thought I was in IMHO, so if a passing mod could give this a boost.
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Old 05-16-2018, 10:46 PM
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No problem. Moved.
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Old 05-16-2018, 11:05 PM
Joey P Joey P is online now
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ISTM that could come down to who has the better lawyer and/or the age of the shoplifter. The store owner could easily argue that it was stolen and tell a story about how he was modfying it for some personal project, it was never meant to actually be used in a playstation. If he, or his lawyer, could make that believable, he'd probably be okay.

OTOH, the shoplifter would probably need to start by showing that the theft and the damage to his property are two separate incidents. Give him a ticket for retail theft, he can pay his fine and restitution and now, as a civil case, he can argue that the shop owner knowingly damaged his property. He may also be able to argue some kind of entrapment, assuming he had never been in trouble in the past and he was just a kid and saw it sitting right there by the door.
If the kid is young enough, maybe they could try to use the attractive nuisance defense. Not that exactly, I know it doesn't apply perfectly, but that idea. The shop owner left a regularly stolen item in a place where it was likely to get stolen, but he booby trapped it and now there's damage involved.

The person with the damaged playstation would probably do best to sue (or have a lawyer write a letter) Nintendo and go from there. Let Nintendo's lawyers deal with the game shop.

In the end, personally, I think if anything became of it, it would be that the game store owner would have to buy the shoplifter a new console or settle for a few hundred dollars.


You have to keep in mind that we have an omniscient narrator. If this actually happened, the person with the damaged playstation probably wouldn't realize that it was because of the card and even if they did they probably wouldn't guess that it happened by design.


I'm sure there's all kinds of incorrect things here, this is just sort of the way I thought it all out.
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Old 05-17-2018, 12:12 AM
Ponderoid Ponderoid is offline
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This accessory will damage any console it's plugged into, right? How can the store owner be sure that only the thief will suffer? What's the likelihood that this booby-trapped accessory will get passed on to some innocent person after it has done its damage to the intended target? As Joey P notes, the thief will probably not realize their console got bricked by the stolen item. So now they have a useless console, which they might replace, or perhaps they can't or won't replace it so they will want to dispose of the supposedly still-functional accessories somehow... Whoever casually put out this device intending for it to be used is responsible for all damage it causes down the road until he recovers it somehow.
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Old 05-17-2018, 01:08 AM
md2000 md2000 is offline
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And if their excuse is ... "Someone left it here - I opened it and checked it out, but did not understand it, and left it out in case the owner came back in..."?

The key in any lawsuit I would imagine would be proving the damage was intentional if it's decoy enough to look legitimate.
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Old 05-17-2018, 07:53 AM
Shodan Shodan is online now
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IANAL, but if I were a juror in either a criminal or civil case against Gord, I would be strongly tempted to consider nullification. Listen to all the evidence with a straight face, and then find against the guy who stole it, or anyone who acquired it from the guy who stole it.

"I stole it, and it ruined my game console". I stop listening after the first comma.

Regards,
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  #8  
Old 05-17-2018, 09:16 AM
kayaker kayaker is online now
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Heh. Agree with Shodan.
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Old 05-17-2018, 10:24 AM
Joey P Joey P is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shodan View Post
IANAL, but if I were a juror in either a criminal or civil case against Gord, I would be strongly tempted to consider nullification. Listen to all the evidence with a straight face, and then find against the guy who stole it, or anyone who acquired it from the guy who stole it.

"I stole it, and it ruined my game console". I stop listening after the first comma.

Regards,
Shodan
Working on the assumption that this is real, how do you feel about the bait bike videos?
No one is saying that they're not stealing the bikes, but should the owners be penalized for creating an enticing situation [unlocked, unsupervised bike in an area that gets a lot of foot traffic) knowing the end result will harm someone?
  #10  
Old 05-17-2018, 10:40 AM
Jim Peebles Jim Peebles is online now
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What's the point? Now they will want to steal a replacement game system too.
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Old 05-17-2018, 10:50 AM
Tom Tildrum Tom Tildrum is online now
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My recollection from law school is that an intervening criminal act breaks the chain of causation for civil liability. As long as the store owner wasn't actively conspiring with the thief, he may well be in the clear.
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Old 05-17-2018, 11:48 AM
Projammer Projammer is offline
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I understand that the owner can be sued by the thief. Anyone can be sued for anything. This is America after all. ETA: But good luck proving the owner intended for the cart to be stolen.

My question is whether the local DA would have any interest in the case. Have any laws actually been broken?
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Last edited by Projammer; 05-17-2018 at 11:50 AM.
  #13  
Old 05-17-2018, 11:55 AM
Joey P Joey P is online now
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Originally Posted by Projammer View Post
I understand that the owner can be sued by the thief. Anyone can be sued for anything. This is America after all. ETA: But good luck proving the owner intended for the cart to be stolen.

My question is whether the local DA would have any interest in the case. Have any laws actually been broken?
That was my issue with the OP, we knew the intent of both sides ahead of time. And the issue you brought up is why it may very well come down to who has the better lawyer.
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Old 05-17-2018, 01:59 PM
k9bfriender k9bfriender is offline
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What'd be fun is if the owner took the day off, but left the item on the desk.

Someone comes in, asks the cashier about it, and the cashier goes ahead and sells it, not knowing the nefarious intent.
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Old 05-17-2018, 02:16 PM
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Originally Posted by k9bfriender View Post
What'd be fun is if the owner took the day off, but left the item on the desk.

Someone comes in, asks the cashier about it, and the cashier goes ahead and sells it, not knowing the nefarious intent.
But that would change the entire premise, to the point where there's no question the store owner is in the wrong.
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Old 05-17-2018, 02:25 PM
k9bfriender k9bfriender is offline
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But that would change the entire premise, to the point where there's no question the store owner is in the wrong.
It's not really changing the premise, just adding in a caution, whether or not a shoplifter could pursue damages, his tricked out device could end up going to a legitimate customer.
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Old 05-17-2018, 03:18 PM
Tom Tildrum Tom Tildrum is online now
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Have any laws actually been broken?
The thief could try to argue that the store owner essentially set up a spring gun.
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Old 05-17-2018, 03:43 PM
Shodan Shodan is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joey P View Post
Working on the assumption that this is real, how do you feel about the bait bike videos?
No one is saying that they're not stealing the bikes, but should the owners be penalized for creating an enticing situation [unlocked, unsupervised bike in an area that gets a lot of foot traffic) knowing the end result will harm someone?
Ruining your game console is somewhat different from crashing a stolen bike, although I see that the principle is much the same. You aren't going to die or break a limb from a video game sabotage.

Then again, "serves you right, you fucking thief" is a principle that isn't enshrined into law as much as I might like.

Regards,
Shodan
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Old 05-17-2018, 03:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joey P View Post
ISTM that could come down to who has the better lawyer and/or the age of the shoplifter. The store owner could easily argue that it was stolen and tell a story about how he was modfying it for some personal project, it was never meant to actually be used in a playstation. If he, or his lawyer, could make that believable, he'd probably be okay.

OTOH, the shoplifter would probably need to start by showing that the theft and the damage to his property are two separate incidents. Give him a ticket for retail theft, he can pay his fine and restitution and now, as a civil case, he can argue that the shop owner knowingly damaged his property. He may also be able to argue some kind of entrapment, assuming he had never been in trouble in the past and he was just a kid and saw it sitting right there by the door.
If the kid is young enough, maybe they could try to use the attractive nuisance defense. Not that exactly, I know it doesn't apply perfectly, but that idea. The shop owner left a regularly stolen item in a place where it was likely to get stolen, but he booby trapped it and now there's damage involved.

The person with the damaged playstation would probably do best to sue (or have a lawyer write a letter) Nintendo and go from there. Let Nintendo's lawyers deal with the game shop.
What does Nintendo have to do with this? Sony makes the Playstation. If you drove a Chevy down a road you knew you weren't supposed be on, and got flat tires from spikes planted there, would you sue Ford?
  #20  
Old 05-17-2018, 03:48 PM
Joey P Joey P is online now
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Originally Posted by k9bfriender View Post
It's not really changing the premise, just adding in a caution, whether or not a shoplifter could pursue damages, his tricked out device could end up going to a legitimate customer.
The premise, the way I understood it, is about whether or not you're on the hook for damaged property since you stole the item that did the damage.
The way you presented it, the item was legitimately purchased. I can't see any reason why the store wouldn't be on the hook for that.
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Old 05-17-2018, 03:55 PM
Joey P Joey P is online now
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Originally Posted by Shodan View Post
Ruining your game console is somewhat different from crashing a stolen bike, although I see that the principle is much the same. You aren't going to die or break a limb from a video game sabotage.

Then again, "serves you right, you fucking thief" is a principle that isn't enshrined into law as much as I might like.

Regards,
Shodan
I know it's not the same, but as you said, it's a similar concept, so my question stands. If someone got hurt because the owner rigged up their bike to violently crash and created a situation that would make it easy to steal, should the owner be on the hook for that?

In both cases the owner manufactured a situation that was enticing to thieves for the sole purpose of harming them or damaging their property.

In both cases, the owner could have better secured their property, they left it out as bait. In both cases if the owner had done, literally, nothing, not only would there be no harm, their property wouldn't have been stolen in the first place.


Quote:
Originally Posted by boffking View Post
What does Nintendo have to do with this? Sony makes the Playstation. If you drove a Chevy down a road you knew you weren't supposed be on, and got flat tires from spikes planted there, would you sue Ford?
Yes.

Last edited by Joey P; 05-17-2018 at 03:56 PM.
  #22  
Old 05-17-2018, 08:24 PM
Projammer Projammer is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joey P View Post
Working on the assumption that this is real, how do you feel about the bait bike videos?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Tildrum View Post
The thief could try to argue that the store owner essentially set up a spring gun.
The important difference between these examples and the OP is that these are man traps designed to to operate against a person with potential to injure or kill.

I was asking if there are any similar laws covering damage to property in a "trap" situation.
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Last edited by Projammer; 05-17-2018 at 08:26 PM.
  #23  
Old 05-17-2018, 08:36 PM
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There is no consumer protection on a product that was never intended to be sold or used.

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Old 05-17-2018, 09:57 PM
Peter Morris Peter Morris is online now
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Ex turpi causa non oritur actio

Ex turpi causa non oritur actio (Latin "from a dishonorable cause an action does not arise") is a legal doctrine which states that a plaintiff will be unable to pursue legal remedy if it arises in connection with his own illegal act.
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Old 05-18-2018, 09:34 AM
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Even if the thief brought a lawsuit, wouldn't a good defense be 'I never saw that before. That didn't come from me. Prove it did!' ?
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Old 05-18-2018, 09:39 AM
Joey P Joey P is online now
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Even if the thief brought a lawsuit, wouldn't a good defense be 'I never saw that before. That didn't come from me. Prove it did!' ?
Subpoena his surveillance system that likely points right at the counter and probably saw the theft happen.
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Old 05-18-2018, 10:03 AM
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Subpoena his surveillance system that likely points right at the counter and probably saw the theft happen.
Of course, he will have recorded over that data by the time the subpoena arrives, right?
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Old 05-18-2018, 11:37 AM
Joey P Joey P is online now
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Of course, he will have recorded over that data by the time the subpoena arrives, right?
No-Knock warrant?
  #29  
Old 05-18-2018, 11:43 AM
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No-Knock warrant?
I'm not accusing the store owner of doing anything nefarious. The recording systems I'm familiar with are set up to record over the previous day unless something happened and the store owner therefore saved the data.
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Old 05-18-2018, 12:34 PM
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Ex turpi causa non oritur actio

Ex turpi causa non oritur actio (Latin "from a dishonorable cause an action does not arise") is a legal doctrine which states that a plaintiff will be unable to pursue legal remedy if it arises in connection with his own illegal act.
But haven't burglars successfully sued homeowners from getting injured while burglaring the home?
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Old 05-18-2018, 12:45 PM
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No-Knock warrant?
They generally don't issue those in civil cases. Or warrants of any kind.

Even if the thief tries to have the store owner arrested this wouldn't rise to the occasion of police searches. I doubt they would be interested.
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  #32  
Old 05-18-2018, 12:59 PM
Joey P Joey P is online now
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I'm not accusing the store owner of doing anything nefarious. The recording systems I'm familiar with are set up to record over the previous day unless something happened and the store owner therefore saved the data.
Mine stores about a month. The insurance company wanted us to have one that saved 90 days, never did anything about that.
  #33  
Old 05-19-2018, 01:50 AM
t-bonham@scc.net t-bonham@scc.net is offline
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Even if the thief brought a lawsuit, wouldn't a good defense be 'I never saw that before. That didn't come from me. Prove it did!' ?
An even better defense for the store owner might be "that device was in here to be repaired -- it damages any game system it is connected to. But it got stolen before we could repair it.".
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