Has there ever been a court ruling like this?

For those of you who have seen Liar Liar with Jim Carrey, there is a scene where a woman mentions that someone who hurt himself burgling a house was awarded damages. My very quick GQ is: has there ever been a case where a court has ruled in favour of an injured robber (or something similar) or was it just a plot device used in the film?

It seems rather unlikely to me, but my SO and his brother swear that there has been a ruling like it.

IIRC there have been cases where damages were awarded to intruders and trespassers (or their estates) injured by “man-traps” that injured or killed them and in situations where the intruder or trespasser was shot in circumstances where no threat to life or limb could be seen or reasonably presumed. I know there was a case in England like this but I don’t know about the US.

Yes, a couple of decades ago there was such a case in California where some burglar was hurt by a dangerous condition. I seem to recall that the facts were outrageous. People who hate lawsuits constantly point to this as a reason that lawyers are scum.

The idea here for more significant discussion is the “trap-gun” lawsuit. Some guy has a bunch of kids constantly breaking into his candy shop, and instead of putting in better locks and bars on, he puts a shotgun next to the door tied to the knob and trigger with a string. Kid shoots self. Not only does the guy have criminal liability (trap guns are illegal in most states), but civil liability too for an attractive nuisance and premises liability.

That will be $50 please.

I got 50 bucks that say’s this will turn into a gun debate, long before we get a real cite. :wink:

{Muffin comes huffing into the thread, waving papers frenetically above his head. “Here, here are your cites!” He stops, and wheezes for a moment. He looks up. “Fifty bucks, please.”}

Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46

  1. (1) Every one who, with intent to cause death or bodily harm to persons, whether ascertained or not, sets or places or causes to be set or placed a trap, device or other thing whatever that is likely to cause death or bodily harm to persons is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

(2) A person who, being in occupation or possession of a place where anything mentioned in subsection (1) has been set or placed, knowingly and wilfully permits it to remain at that place, shall be deemed, for the purposes of that subsection, to have set or placed it with the intent mentioned therein.

Indexed as:
R. v. East Crest Oil Co.

East Crest Oil Company Limited, appellant;
His Majesty the King, respondent.

[1945] S.C.R. 191

Supreme Court of Canada
1944: October 18 / 1945: February 6.
Present: Rinfret C.J. and Kerwin, Taschereau, Rand and Estey JJ.

“Section 247 is a restatement of the common law. Union Colliery Co. v. The Queen [(1900) 31 Can. S.C.R. 81] . . . .”

Indexed as:
R. v. Union Colliery Co. of British Columbia

The Union Colliery Company, Appellant;
Her Majesty the Queen, Respondent.

(1900), 31 S.C.R. 81

Supreme Court of Canada

1900: October 22 / 1900: December 7.

Present: Taschereau, Gwynne Sedgewick, King and Girouard JJ.

. . . But the ground of offence set out in the declaration has, it is clear, been dealt with by the Code, and the indictment is evidently framed, the prosecuting officer having them before him, under the provisions of section 213, which is as follows:

“Every one who has in his charge or under his control anything whatever, whether animate or inanimate, or who erects, makes or maintains anything whatever which, in the absence of precaution or care, may endanger human life, is under a legal duty to avoid such danger, and is criminally responsible for the consequences of omitting, without lawful excuse, to perform such duty.”

This article I take to be a mere statutory statement of the common law, neither abridging nor enlarging it in any respect.

. . . They were therefore under a legal duty to take precautions against such danger. They disregarded this duty. The anticipated event occurred and they are criminally responsible for it.

Appeal dismissed.

Tony Martin, a British recluse living in a remote Norfolk farmhouse, is currently serving five years for manslaughter (reduced from a life sentence for murder on appeal). Two teenaged burglars broke into his farmhouse, and he opened fire with an illegally-owned pump action shotgun. The younger burglar (16) was killed.

The court case revolved around issues of self-defence, although it pretty soon became clear that Martin was suffering from a paranoid personality disorder and had a ‘colourful’ history (threatening Nazi-style concentration camps for travellers and so on). He’d rigged up the farmhouse to trap burglars – sabotaged staircases and so on – and when they tried to flee after he fired his first shot, he shot the second burglar in the back.

Another UK case- no cite I’m afraid but only about six months ago- Police required a man to remove sharp objects from around doors and windows of his mother’s flat (apartment).

1L checking in, mainly practicing research strategies on a Saturday morning.

From Restatement of the Law, Second, Torts, § 85

Some of the supporting citations are

I’m surprised nobody has mentioned the apparent intent behind laws against dangerous/lethal traps. In my law class, it was explained that traps do not discriminate, and thus putting fireman and other officials in the line of duty at risk, as well as “criminals.” And, of course, there’s always a question of appropriate force (e.g. killing an intruder is probably a little extreme for petty theft).

Traps are, of course, illegal. They should be.
What I doubt is that you could be liable for ordinary accident. Like if the burgular gets stuck in the chimney or trips on the stairs. Something like that. This is, I think, what the people in the OP are talking about.
The popular story I’ve heard is that a thief mistook a cellar door for one to a closet, and collected tons of money. Bought a small island in the Virgin Islands, IIRC.
Where do you want all these freakin’ rabbits? (Don’t say it) :slight_smile:

Back to the OP. In my high school “Student and the Law” class, a retired cop (the teacher) told us of a case where a man was trying to break into a school. He stepped on a plexiglass skylight and fell into the building, breaking a leg. He collected damages on the grounds that the school should have had skylights that could support a person’s weight, should have had barriers or warnings, or something like that. I don’t recall if he collected a trespassing conviction as well as his damage award.

Here’s a local case for you, Kayeby.

You might also like http://www.overlawyered.com for tales of ridiculous lawsuits.

Here’s a local case for you, Kayeby.

You might also like http://www.overlawyered.com for tales of ridiculous lawsuits.

Booby traps aside, on a more personal level…

Bernie Goetz was held civilly liable for injuring those kids he shot, though not ciminally liable. Not on his own property, of course.

These kind of lawsuits are filed pretty often. I hear about them on the news, but Goetz is the only one I’ve hear of who lost. There was a case a couple of years back, in Louisiana, where a homeowner shot a Japanese college student who apparently knocked on his door to ask directions. The owner was also found not guily on criminal charges. I doubt the civil case is resolved yet.

Except in California, of course.

There, if an intruder enters your home, you are required by law to leave.

In any case, in the US stories are legion of lawsuits applied against homeowners who are victims of crime. In virtually any case of a justified shooting, while they may escape criminal charges, a civil suit is practically guaranteed.

Statistics or citations, please? Yes, I know there have been and currently are some stupid lawsuits filed. But when I hear generalizations about the civil justice system I look at the issue from my perspective as a plaintiff’s lawyer, and I can’t imagine bringing a lawsuit on behalf of an intruder against a homeowner who defends himself or herself. What a colossal waste of time and money that would be. A jury would hate the case and hate me for bringing it.

What I think is at work here is the same media effect that takes place regarding violent crime. Although the statistics show a steady decline in violent crime nationwide since 1990(http://www.cnn.com/2001/US/08/12/prison.population/index.html), the media follows the “if it bleeds, it leads” format, and we are innundated daily of stories of murders and beatings and rape etc. As a result, the public perception is that crime is more rampant now than in the “good old days”.

In the same fashion, once a month or so, some dumb attorney files a dumb lawsuit on behalf of a dumb client, and it gets reported nationwide. We hear these stories, and they stick in the mind, because they are ludicrous, and the perception builds that the court system is broken. It’s a shame, because it minimizes all of the good, legitimate, important work that the courts do.

Well said, Houlihan.
I too hear of these ridiculous lawsuits, but rarely hear of one where the plaintiff actually prevails in court. Especially when trespassing or burgulary etc. is involved.
I knew a woman who clobbered her ex with a ball bat when he kicked her door down. He brought a suit against her, but dropped it when she wouldn’t settle out of court. In California, BTW. He never bothered her again. My guess is that he finally got some good advice from his lawyer.
I’m curious as to the outcome of the case linked above by TheLoadedDog.

Would that be the California Penal Code Sec. 198.5 (called the “Home Protection Bill of Rights” that provides:

OK, so you can’t kill them over the television, but you aren’t “required by law to leave”. Have a nice day.

Don’t try to cloud the issue with facts, Mighty Maximino. Many people are prepared to believe anything about California. I’ve come to relish assertions like Tedster’s.
Some folks even think that Gov. Davis is a liberal.
:smiley: :smiley: :smiley:

Sorry, folks. That’s the way it is. Smileys don’t change reality. If they aren’t “threatening” you or “causing great bodily harm”; ya have a duty to leave your own home. Have a day.