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Civil Liability


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14 replies to this topic

#1 Gene83

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Posted 27 March 2010 - 08:30 PM

I've been reading this article that was posted on MSNBC's website

Record numbers now licensed to pack heat - Life- msnbc.com

I'm looking at this particular statement in the article...

"Helms’ friends and relatives were left to mourn, barred by the same Castle Doctrine from filing a civil lawsuit."


I understand that Tennessee has a Castle Doctrine law, but I've been told that even when a shooting falls under those guidelines, the assailant or his family can still file a civil lawsuit against you. Does anyone know if that's true or not?

I like the South Carolina law. If the police find that the shooting was justified, it stops all further legal proceedings.

#2 jackdm3

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Posted 27 March 2010 - 08:35 PM

Castle seems to protect you from criminal charges. I don't know of ANY law that prevents anyone from filing a civil suit. What would this great land of ours be worth if we couldn't sue someone anytime we felt like it?:)

Edited by jackdm3, 27 March 2010 - 08:37 PM.


#3 mikedwood

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Posted 27 March 2010 - 08:36 PM

"Helms’ friends and relatives were left to mourn, barred by the same Castle Doctrine from filing a civil lawsuit."


don't mean to derail your thread and you will get smoe good answers, but that statement written by a supposed "reporter" is unbelievable to me.

#4 trblmkr13

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Posted 27 March 2010 - 08:43 PM

Castle seems to protect you from criminal charges. I don't know of ANY law that prevents anyone from filing a civil suit. What would this great land of ours be worth if we couldn't sue someone anytime we felt like it?:)


I think the Castle in TN protects you from a civil suit if the shooting was "justified"

#5 Gene83

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Posted 27 March 2010 - 08:43 PM

don't mean to derail your thread and you will get smoe good answers, but that statement written by a supposed "reporter" is unbelievable to me.



I'm not arguing the merits of the story. It's biased. I know that. But, if South Carolina law prevents a civil lawsuit from being filed, that would be interesting.

I took this from Les Jones' blog....

Deadly force and civil law

  • Even if criminal charges aren't pressed against you, the person you shoot can file a suit in civil court, as can their estate.
  • Even if the person you shoot is convicted of a crime for assaulting you, they can file a civil suit against you. The other guy can literally sue you from his jail cell. What else has he got to do?
  • "Guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt" is the standard for criminal trials. For civil trials, the plaintiff only has to prove a preponderance of evidence. In other words, the creep in jail who's suing you got the benefit of the doubt, not you.
Les Jones: Tennessee Handgun Carry Permits, Part I


Saving your life and losing everything else that you have in a civil lawsuit doesn't sound all that appealing. If such law actually exists in South Carolina, and we don't have it here, it might be something to propose to our elected officials.

#6 Fallguy

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Posted 27 March 2010 - 10:52 PM

In TN, Yes they can file a suit, but if the shoot is ruled justified they have to pay your lawyer, any lost time from work and any other expenses related to your defense of the suit.

Seems like courts have ruled that no law can block someones access to the courts. But they can set out what happens after a ruiling is made.

The law in TN does not protect you if an innocent 3rd party is injured/killed or their property is damaged.

From: http://www.michie.com/tennessee/

39-11-622. Justification for use of force — Exceptions — Immunity from civil liability.

(a) (1) A person who uses force as permitted in §§ 39-11-611 — 39-11-614 or § 29-34-201, is justified in using such force and is immune from civil liability for the use of such force, unless:

(A) The person against whom force was used is a law enforcement officer, as defined in § 39-11-106 who:

(i) Was acting in the performance of the officer's official duties; and

(ii) Identified the officer in accordance with any applicable law; or

(iii) The person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person was a law enforcement officer; or

(:) The force used by the person resulted in property damage to or the death or injury of an innocent bystander or other person against whom the force used was not justified.

(B) The court shall award reasonable attorney's fees, court costs, compensation for loss of income, and all expenses incurred by a person in defense of any civil action brought against the person based upon the person's use of force, if the court finds that the defendant was justified in using such force pursuant to §§ 39-11-611 — 39-11-614 or § 29-34-201



#7 Fallguy

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Posted 27 March 2010 - 10:59 PM

It appears SC law is close to the same...

From http://www.scstateho...ode/t16c011.htm


SECTION 16-11-450. Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil actions; law enforcement officer exception; costs.

(A) A person who uses deadly force as permitted by the provisions of this article or another applicable provision of law is justified in using deadly force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of deadly force, unless the person against whom deadly force was used is a law enforcement officer acting in the performance of his official duties and he identifies himself in accordance with applicable law or the person using deadly force knows or reasonably should have known that the person is a law enforcement officer.

(:) A law enforcement agency may use standard procedures for investigating the use of deadly force as described in subsection (A), but the agency may not arrest the person for using deadly force unless probable cause exists that the deadly force used was unlawful.

© The court shall award reasonable attorneys' fees, court costs, compensation for loss of income, and all expenses incurred by the defendant in defense of a civil action brought by a plaintiff if the court finds that the defendant is immune from prosecution as provided in subsection (A).



#8 mikedwood

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Posted 28 March 2010 - 02:26 AM

I'm not arguing the merits of the story. It's biased. I know that. But, if South Carolina law prevents a civil lawsuit from being filed, that would be interesting.


No, no, no it was a very good question and the story is a good example, a very good one. Just that line got me.

I figured Fallguy would come a long soon enough and give a documented answer. I was waiting as well :)

#9 Glock23ForMe

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Posted 28 March 2010 - 05:39 AM

In TN, Yes they can file a suit, but if the shoot is ruled justified they have to pay your lawyer, any lost time from work and any other expenses related to your defense of the suit.


And they'll be able to do THAT from their Jail Cell too...

#10 Gene83

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Posted 28 March 2010 - 10:40 AM

Thanks for the responses. That was pretty much what I was thinking. The idea that they have to pay your legal expenses if they lose might deter a reasonable person from filing a suit against you, but the people that break into your house usually aren't reasonable people anyway.

And yes, I've heard it's better to be "judged by twelve than carried by six", but I really don't like the idea of either one.

Thanks again for the responses. I tried to look up the actual law myself, but the link I was using last night wasn't working for some reason. But then, I was having trouble with the whole website last night.

Edited by Gene83, 28 March 2010 - 10:43 AM.
can't spell


#11 Fallguy

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Posted 28 March 2010 - 11:40 AM

What I have always figured is if the Police don't charge your and/or the Grand Jury No Bill's you, no self-respectable lawyer (I know, I know :shrug:) would even take the civil case.

I mean if it has already been determined that you broke no law, it just seem the civil case would be pretty hard to prove....and if they loose it's not just "oh well" then they are out a fair amount of money, and surely they judge would order them to pay your expenses first before their own lawyers.

#12 Gene83

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Posted 28 March 2010 - 11:51 AM

What I have always figured is if the Police don't charge your and/or the Grand Jury No Bill's you, no self-respectable lawyer (I know, I know :shrug:) would even take the civil case.

I mean if it has already been determined that you broke no law, it just seem the civil case would be pretty hard to prove....and if they loose it's not just "oh well" then they are out a fair amount of money, and surely they judge would order them to pay your expenses first before their own lawyers.



You're probably right. You always hope that you never have to use a weapon against somebody, but I'm just trying to think ahead. You've pretty much got a split second to decide whether or not you're within the law beyond a reasonable doubt before you pull the trigger. It's not a bad idea to consider some of the possible consequences and make some plans beforehand.

Thanks again for your thoughtful response.

#13 Fallguy

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Posted 28 March 2010 - 12:48 PM

You're probably right. You always hope that you never have to use a weapon against somebody, but I'm just trying to think ahead. You've pretty much got a split second to decide whether or not you're within the law beyond a reasonable doubt before you pull the trigger. It's not a bad idea to consider some of the possible consequences and make some plans beforehand.

Thanks again for your thoughtful response.


Definitely good to think ahead.

...and you're right, what you had to do in a split second will be debated by others not under the same stress and for a much longer period of time.

But I guess I've always thought that of all the things that might be running through my mind the split-seconds before pulling the triger...that the civil liability is going to be pretty low on the list.

Not that it isn't important, but that I have already realized there could be legal and civil consequences from carrying and/or using a firearm. But again, if I truly feel my life is in danger, the civil consequences are a fairly low priorty...at that moment.

#14 JayC

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Posted 28 March 2010 - 08:21 PM

What I have always figured is if the Police don't charge your and/or the Grand Jury No Bill's you, no self-respectable lawyer (I know, I know :() would even take the civil case.

I mean if it has already been determined that you broke no law, it just seem the civil case would be pretty hard to prove....and if they loose it's not just "oh well" then they are out a fair amount of money, and surely they judge would order them to pay your expenses first before their own lawyers.


Depending on the agreement the lawyers signed... the judge could order them to pay as well.... Recent ruling in a mp3 file sharing case where the attorney is partly responsible for the judgment against his client.

#15 Gene83

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Posted 28 March 2010 - 08:32 PM

Depending on the agreement the lawyers signed... the judge could order them to pay as well.... Recent ruling in a mp3 file sharing case where the attorney is partly responsible for the judgment against his client.



Now, that might be an interesting turn of events.