Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiff purchased a stove from Defendants on credit and took it away. Defendants quickly discovered that Plaintiff’s credit information was false and immediately set out to overtake him and recover the stove. Defendants ultimately retook the stove by force, and Plaintiff sued for assault and battery.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. One has a right to retake property that is rightfully his so long as it can be done without unnecessary violence to the person and without creating a breach of the peace.
Issue. Was the trial court correct in instructing the jury that Defendants were liable to Plaintiff if they used any force at all in retaking the stove?
Held. No. The judgment was reversed and remanded. The stove was passed to Plaintiff under false pretenses, leaving all rights to its possession with Defendants. Defendants therefore were privileged to retake the property if this could be accomplished without unnecessary violence or breach of the peace. Only if Defendants used unnecessary violence or breached the peace were they liable to Plaintiff.
Discussion. This case recognizes the privilege an owner of property has to recover that property when it is wrongfully taken. The most important aspect of this ruling is the limitation placed upon that privilege. Once again, of primary concern is the prevention of violence and breach of the peace.