Burgler falling through skylight...

and then suing the owner for damages and wins

We’ve all heard this right? But did it ever really happen? And if it did, what legal reaoning could there be? (skylight not up to code??)

Similarly, in Ireland there’s a similar tale/legend about trespassers using someone’s pool. One trespasser dives into the shallow end, breaks their neck, and successfully sues the pool owner for not having a warning sign.

Haven’t been able to google anything up regarding that, but I did find this story, which holds that " A landowner owes no duty except to refrain from willful, wanton or reckless conduct which is likely to injure a trespasser. However, the duties of care owed to children are different from duties owed to adults."

You might also look at several similar cases examined by snopes.

This is precisely why I have upended pointy sticks under all my sky lights.

I have personal knowledge of this – because my friend was one of many sued by the heirs of the deceased.

My friend lives in town at the end of a “T” intersection. In the middle of the night, two individuals get into some kind of argument and a high speed car chase results. The lead car acrosses through the “T”, goes airborne, striking my friend’s house several feet above groundlevel and the occupnat of the first car dies on impact.

Both drivers were drunk, driving recklessly and one or the other had a criminal arrest warrant outstanding. This didn’t stop the heirs from sueing my friend, the city, the highway department and several others.

After more than a year, the court deleted my friend as a defendant, but he had to retain legal counsel till then.

Well, I used to work with a former Carpinteria, CA PD officer who firmly maintained that there was a case once in Santa Barbara, CA wherein a burglar slipped on a bath mat, was injured, and successfully sued the owners of the house for damages. To this day I am still a little skeptical about this, but it may very well be true.

While intended humorously I assume, why wouldn’t this be considered similar to setting a trap for a burglar, for which you could be held liable?

The October 1998 case was reported during a “weird-but-true news” segment on OETA’s (PBS) “Tulsa Times” some time ago. Thanks for the link; I’m reassured now.

There was an incident a few months back here in Hong Kong in which a woman attempted to commit suicide by jumping from a tall building, only to be thwarted by falling onto a car - which was parked in a no-parking zone.
Both parties are suing each other and, IIRC, as part of the woman’s problems included poverty, the hope of winning a lawsuit has given her something to live for.

Sam’s right. Better shoot the burglar in the head execution-style, too,

IANAL. I remember a case in NYC where a shop owner set up a death trap for burglars. That was considered criminal to do so.

I don’t know about non-lethal traps.

Of course, on can sue over anything. Whether one will win and whether that thing you’re suing over is criminal or not… iduhno.


In most juristictions even non-lethal booby traps are illegal. A former co-owrker of mine got fined. Someone had tried to break in her car by sticking thier fingers under the rubber at the top of the driver’s side window and pulling the window down by force. She had razor blades imbedded in the rubber.

She called the police to report the attempted theft when she saw the streaks of bloody fingerprints down her window and got herself in Big Trouble.

aahala Glad to hear that your friend got removed from the list of defendents. Typically, lawyers will file to sue everybody across the board knowing full well that many of them will get removed from the list of defendents. It’s more or less an automatic kind of thing because there can be issues with adding people later on – so lawyers try to make sure they get everybody on the first go.

You’ll see that happen a lot with hospital malpractice suits. They’ll practically name every employee who clocked into work that day.

This reminds me of an incident in Natchez or Vicksburg, where a new buisiness owner was having the antique building renovated. The workers came across an old chimney. Inside was the dessicated corpse of a guy who had tried to break in and fell headfirst into the chimney … and couldnt’ get out.