Intro. Law/Legal 200
October 24, 2014
Case Briefing Assignment
Katko v. Briney, 183 N.W.2d 657 (Iowa 1971).
Procedure: Plaintiff Katko filed suit against Briney in Mahaska District Court seeking damages for injury suffered by defendant. After trial by jury and in accordance with jury verdict, Court awarded plaintiff actual and punitive damages. Court denied defendant’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and for new trial. Defendant appealed. Facts: Plaintiff trespassed on defendant’s property with the intent to steal items from inside the un-occupied house and was shot in the leg by a spring gun hidden behind a door. Issue: May an owner protect personal property in an un-occupied house against trespassers by installing a spring gun capable of inflicting serious bodily injury or death? Decision: Trial court affirmed.
Rule of Law: An owner may not protect property against trespassers with such means of force that it will cause serious bodily injury or death. Reasoning: While the law allows an owner to protect property against trespassers with reasonable force, it does not allow an owner to use such means of force as will take human life or inflict great bodily injury. The law places a higher value upon human safety than upon mere rights in property, and there is no privilege to use such extreme force unless there is also a threat to the owner’s personal safety. Dissent: Justice Larson dissented because, in his opinion, it was not proven the defendant intended to shoot an intruder who attempted to enter the room in plaintiff’s house. Justice Larson stated the instructions to the jury did not clarify the law regarding the owner’s liability, and that the owner had no liability for injury as the owner’s intent to kill or seriously injure the intruder was never proven. Justice Larson also dissented because the plaintiff was awarded punitive damages, a remedy which our law does not allow. Concurrent: All justices concurred, except Justice Larson....
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