Brief Fact Summary. After many years of experiencing frustrating housebreaking incidents upon their property, Defendant premises owners rigged a shotgun in a bedroom positioned to shoot trespassers in the legs upon opening the door.Â Plaintiff Katko entered the bedroom unlawfully which triggered the gun and most of his entire right leg was blown away.Â He sued Defendants Briney for damages and won.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Premises owners do not have a privilege to protect their property using force intended or likely to cause death or serious harm against a trespasser.
A plaintiff is a fortuitous beneficiary of a punitive damage award simply because there is no one else to receive it.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Whether a property owner may use a spring gun for the purpose of preventing the unlawful entry of a burglar or thief.
Held. No.Â An owner of a premises is prohibited from willfully or intentionally injuring a trespasser by means of force that either takes life or inflicts great bodily injury, or is likely to do so.Â The value of human life and limb outweighs the interest of a possessor of land in excluding from it trespassers.Â There is no privilege to use force intended or likely to cause death or serious harm against a trespasser.
Discussion. This decision stands for the proposition that a property owner is not entitled to use deadly force to defend his property from trespassers.