Katko V. Briney Tort Case

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11 April 2016

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Katko v. Briney was a battery tort case that occurred in Iowa in 1971. The plaintiff, Marvin Katko was illegally infringing on private farmland and entered a farmhouse with signs warning “No Trespassing”. This farmhouse had been victim to several past burglaries and the owner, defendant Edward Briney wanted to take this issue up on himself. Briney installed a homemade trap composing of his 20 gauge spring-loaded shotgun to a bedroom door. Whoever was to open the booby-trapped door, would be shot in the legs, avoiding any fatal consequences. Marvin Katko illegally trespassed the farmhouse with the intention of collecting bottles and antiques from the house. Katko regretfully opened the trapdoor, injuring himself and needed to be hospitalized. Katko sued for damages against Briney. By inflicting deadly force on another individual, this case become more of human rights issue than a potential trespassing violation.

Certain inquiry that the Supreme Court of Iowa may have had would be in regard to if deadly force within private property is permissible to protect and secure private space. Also the court must ask, to what extent and in what situation is using such deadly force within your rights allowed. According to the Prosper on Torts, it states that “the law has always placed a higher value upon human safety than upon mere rights in property, it is the accepted rule that there is no privilege to use any force calculated to cause death or serious bodily injury to repel the threat to land or chattels, unless there is also such a threat to the defendant’s personal safety as to justify a self-defense.”

The court came to the clear conclusion that “No privilege exists to use force intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to prevent trespass to land or chattels unless the trespass threatens death or great bodily harm to the occupier or user of the land or chattel.” The reasoning behind why the court decided the case this way was simple. It was not a case of trespassing, but an issue of battery with a deadly weapon. Though the court did not want to reward the plaintiff since his injuries occurred in a crime, he was ultimately put in harms way. The court wanted to emphasis the fact that human life is of higher priority than property rights.


(n.d.). Retrieved from website: http://www.casebriefs.com/blog/law/evidence/evidence-keyed-to-mueller/privile

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