Citation. Hodgeden v. Hubbard, 18 Vt . 504
Law Students: Don’t know your Studybuddy Pro login? Register here
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.
Plaintiff went to a warehouse owned by Defendants to purchase a stove. He supplied Defendants with credit information to consummate the purchase and left with the stove. Defendants discovered that Plaintiff’s credit and assets were not what he claimed and they sought to recover the stove. They eventually overtook him and, after Plaintiff drew a knife, forcibly extracted the stove from his possession. At trial for assault and battery, the court instructed the jury that Defendants were not entitled to use force to recover the stove, even though Plaintiff misrepresented his credit. Plaintiff was awarded $1, and the Defendants appealed.
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?
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.
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.