No torts for criminals

An alleged burglar fell to his death when climbing a defective stairway on the outside of a Boston house. The owner, who had previously been cited for problems with the stairway and had already begun appealing the citation, is now reported to be in trouble with the Boston authorities, according to the Boston Herald.

Leaving aside the particulars of this case, it is not unknown for criminals and their survivors to file and win lawsuits for injuries sustained in the course of the commission of a crime. If a burglar slips on a loose rug in your living room, and suffers a back injury, you could be on the hook for damages.

This strikes me (and most people, I would wager) as insanity. In states like California which have a voter initiative process in place, ballot measures denying criminals the right to file lawsuits for injuries sustained in the commission of a crime would probably pass handily.

But unfortunately, there appears to be no activist interest group to push for such ballot initiatives. The interest being protected is diffuse, since none of us expects to face such a lawsuit. The tort law lobby, on the other hand, can be expected to mobilize substantial resources to defeat any such voter initiative which might make it to the battle (after surviving numerous court challenges, no doubt. Tort lawyers do know how to sue).

Perhaps a voter initiative is not the way to go. Isn't this the sort of proposal that a smart candidate for a state legislature could back? Sure the lawyers would try to defeat him or her, but so what? That might make it a better attention—getter.

Hat tip: Susan L

Thomas Lifson   8 22 06

An alleged burglar fell to his death when climbing a defective stairway on the outside of a Boston house. The owner, who had previously been cited for problems with the stairway and had already begun appealing the citation, is now reported to be in trouble with the Boston authorities, according to the Boston Herald.

Leaving aside the particulars of this case, it is not unknown for criminals and their survivors to file and win lawsuits for injuries sustained in the course of the commission of a crime. If a burglar slips on a loose rug in your living room, and suffers a back injury, you could be on the hook for damages.

This strikes me (and most people, I would wager) as insanity. In states like California which have a voter initiative process in place, ballot measures denying criminals the right to file lawsuits for injuries sustained in the commission of a crime would probably pass handily.

But unfortunately, there appears to be no activist interest group to push for such ballot initiatives. The interest being protected is diffuse, since none of us expects to face such a lawsuit. The tort law lobby, on the other hand, can be expected to mobilize substantial resources to defeat any such voter initiative which might make it to the battle (after surviving numerous court challenges, no doubt. Tort lawyers do know how to sue).

Perhaps a voter initiative is not the way to go. Isn't this the sort of proposal that a smart candidate for a state legislature could back? Sure the lawyers would try to defeat him or her, but so what? That might make it a better attention—getter.

Hat tip: Susan L

Thomas Lifson   8 22 06