Katko v. Briney
Supreme Court of IA - 1971
- D had inherited an old house from his grandparents. The house was abandoned.
- D wanted to deter trespassers, so he boarded the windows and posted no trespassing signs everywhere. D also set a shotgun trap in one of the bedrooms.
- There were no warnings about the gun.
- P was shot in the legs by the shotgun while trespassing in the house.
- P sued D for damages.
- Lower court found for P.
- IA Supreme Court affirmed, found for P.
- Can a property owner protect his property from trespassers by use of force and cause serious injury or death?
- A property owner may not protect his property from trespassers by use of force and cause serious injury or death.
- Property owners are not allowed to set traps in their homes to hurt trespassers.
- Force is justified when the trespasser is committing a felony of violence or one punishable by death or if the trespasser is endangering human life.
- Indirect force is just as bad as direct force in this case.
- In defending oneself, a person may use reasonable force.
- One may even use force which includes serious bodily injury or death under certain circumstances.
- However, this type of force is never reasonable for protection of property (unless trespasser is threatening life).
- It's possible that D installed the gun without the intent or purpose to strike or hurt the P.