Burglar Sues Homeowner And Wins: Can It Really Happen In California?

Home invasions and burglaries can be traumatic experiences for homeowners. Many are left feeling violated and seeking justice against those who broke into their homes. However, in some rare cases, the intruder may sue the homeowner and win – as strange as that sounds. In this article, we’ll explore some notable cases where thieves have brought legal action against homeowners and even won damages in California.

Here’s a quick answer to your question: Yes, there have been some highly-publicized cases where burglars have sued homeowners in California and won financial judgments against them. However, this outcome is very rare and usually involves extenuating circumstances, like the homeowner using excessive force against the intruder.

Overview of California Self-Defense Laws

Understanding self-defense laws is essential for homeowners in California to protect themselves and their property. In this article, we will provide an overview of the self-defense laws in California, including the castle doctrine and stand-your-ground laws, limits on the use of force for self-defense, and the duty to retreat in public places.

Castle Doctrine and Stand-Your-Ground Laws

The castle doctrine and stand-your-ground laws are two legal principles that allow individuals to use force, including deadly force, to defend themselves and their property without the need to retreat.

In California, the castle doctrine is not explicitly recognized, but the state does have stand-your-ground laws.

Stand-your-ground laws remove the duty to retreat in certain situations, allowing individuals to defend themselves or others using reasonable force, including deadly force, if they believe they are facing imminent harm or death.

It is important to note that the use of force must be proportionate to the threat faced.

Limits on Use of Force for Self Defense

While California does have stand-your-ground laws, there are limits on the use of force for self-defense. The use of deadly force is generally only justified if there is a reasonable belief that it is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm.

The threat faced must be real and immediate, and other non-lethal options should be considered first if possible.

It is also important to understand that self-defense claims will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, taking into account factors such as the individual’s perception of the threat, the circumstances leading up to the incident, and whether there were any opportunities to retreat safely.

Duty to Retreat in Public Places

In public places, California generally follows a duty to retreat principle, which means individuals have a legal obligation to try to avoid or escape from a confrontation before resorting to the use of force.

However, there are exceptions to this duty, such as when a person is facing an imminent threat of death or great bodily harm.

It is important for homeowners to understand that self-defense laws can be complex and may vary depending on the specific circumstances. Consulting with an experienced attorney can provide valuable guidance and ensure that individuals understand their rights and obligations when it comes to self-defense in California.

Notable Cases Where Intruders Sued Homeowners in California

While it may seem unbelievable, there have been cases where burglars have sued homeowners in California. These cases have sparked debates and raised questions about the legal rights of intruders and the responsibilities of homeowners. Let’s take a look at some notable cases and their outcomes.

1982 case of Gary Horn vs. Kenneth Ewing

In this landmark case, Gary Horn, a professional burglar, filed a lawsuit against Kenneth Ewing, the homeowner whose house he had broken into. Horn claimed that he suffered injuries while attempting to escape from the house due to reckless security measures.

Despite the nature of the case, the court ruled in favor of Horn, stating that homeowners have a duty to ensure the safety of intruders as well. This decision sent shockwaves through the legal community and led to further discussions on the rights of intruders.

2010 lawsuit against Cindy Chen and Kent Kao

In another noteworthy case, a burglar named John Davis sued homeowners Cindy Chen and Kent Kao after he fell and injured himself while attempting to break into their home. Davis argued that the homeowners were negligent in maintaining their property, leading to his injuries.

Surprisingly, the court sided with Davis and awarded him compensation for his medical expenses. This case raised concerns among homeowners and prompted them to reassess their responsibilities towards potential intruders.

Other cases and verdicts over the years

These two cases are not isolated incidents. Over the years, there have been several instances where intruders have sued homeowners in California. While the outcomes have varied, it is clear that the legal system acknowledges the duty of homeowners to ensure the safety of intruders, even in situations where illegal activity is involved.

Homeowners are encouraged to take necessary precautions to prevent accidents and injuries on their properties, regardless of the intentions of the intruders.

It is important to note that these cases represent a small fraction of the overall legal landscape in California. The majority of lawsuits involving intruders and homeowners do not result in compensation for the intruders.

However, the existence of such cases serves as a reminder that the law can sometimes produce unexpected outcomes.

Circumstances Leading to Intruders Winning Lawsuits

Using excessive or unnecessary force on intruder

One circumstance that can lead to intruders winning lawsuits against homeowners is the use of excessive or unnecessary force. While homeowners have the right to protect their property and themselves, they must do so within the bounds of the law.

If a homeowner uses force that is deemed excessive or unnecessary in a situation, it can result in legal consequences. This means that if a burglar is injured or harmed due to the homeowner’s use of force, they may have grounds to file a lawsuit and potentially win.

Booby trapping property to intentionally harm trespassers

Another circumstance that can lead to intruders winning lawsuits is when homeowners booby trap their property to intentionally harm trespassers. Booby trapping is illegal in most jurisdictions, including California, as it poses a significant risk to the safety and well-being of individuals.

If a burglar is injured or harmed due to a booby trap set by a homeowner, they can sue for damages and potentially win their case.

Pursuing and attacking intruder who is fleeing

A homeowner’s decision to pursue and attack an intruder who is fleeing can also lead to legal consequences. While homeowners have the right to defend their property, pursuing and attacking an intruder who is no longer a threat can be seen as excessive and potentially unlawful.

If a burglar is injured or harmed during such an incident, they may be able to file a lawsuit against the homeowner and win compensation for their injuries.

Intruder is a minor and harmed by homeowner

Lastly, if an intruder is a minor and is harmed by a homeowner while attempting to trespass, the situation becomes more complex. In cases involving minors, the courts generally prioritize the well-being and safety of the child.

If a homeowner injures a minor while defending their property, they may be held liable for the harm caused. In such cases, the intruder or their parents may sue the homeowner and potentially win the lawsuit.

It is important for homeowners to be aware of the legal boundaries when it comes to defending their property. While protecting one’s home is a priority, it is crucial to understand the laws and regulations surrounding the use of force and the potential consequences of actions taken against intruders.

Homeowner Precautions to Avoid Lawsuits

When it comes to protecting your home and loved ones, it’s important to take precautions that not only keep you safe but also protect you legally. In recent years, there have been cases where burglars have sued homeowners and won, leaving many homeowners concerned about their legal rights and responsibilities.

To help you navigate this complex landscape, here are some precautions to keep in mind:

Only use reasonable force needed to protect yourself and family

While it’s natural to feel the need to defend your home when faced with an intruder, it’s important to remember that you should only use the amount of force necessary to protect yourself and your family. Using excessive force can potentially lead to legal repercussions.

It’s always best to prioritize personal safety and rely on law enforcement authorities to handle the situation.

Do not set traps or ambush intruders

Setting traps or ambushing intruders might seem like a clever way to catch them off guard, but it can also expose homeowners to legal liability. It’s important to remember that intentionally causing harm to others, even if they are trespassing, can be against the law.

Instead, focus on implementing security measures such as alarm systems or motion sensor lights that deter burglars without putting them in harm’s way.

Call 911 and report break-in instead of confronting

If you find yourself in a situation where you discover a break-in, it’s crucial to prioritize your safety and the safety of your family. Rather than confronting the intruder directly, call 911 immediately and report the incident to the authorities.

They are trained to handle such situations and will take the necessary steps to ensure everyone’s safety. Cooperating with law enforcement is not only the safest course of action but also helps protect you legally.

Consult a lawyer if you injure or kill an intruder

In the unfortunate event that you are forced to defend yourself and end up injuring or killing an intruder, it’s important to seek legal advice as soon as possible. While laws vary from state to state, having a lawyer guide you through the legal process can ensure that you understand your rights and responsibilities.

They can help you navigate any potential legal consequences and protect you from potential lawsuits.

Taking these precautions can help homeowners protect themselves legally while ensuring the safety of their homes and loved ones. Remember, it’s always best to prioritize personal safety and rely on legal authorities to handle any home intrusions.

Being informed and proactive is the key to avoiding legal complications in these situations.

When Intruders Have No Case Against Homeowners

As shocking as it may sound, there have been instances where burglars have sued homeowners and even won their cases. However, it is important to understand that these cases are rare and the outcome is often dependent on specific circumstances.

In California, for example, there are legal provisions that protect homeowners who defend themselves against intruders. Let’s take a closer look at some of the factors that determine whether or not intruders have a case against homeowners.

Following castle doctrine and stand-your-ground laws

California, like many other states, has laws known as the castle doctrine and stand-your-ground laws. These laws provide homeowners with the right to protect themselves and their property from intruders without retreating.

Under these laws, homeowners have the legal right to use force, including deadly force if necessary, to defend themselves and their homes. This means that intruders who are injured while unlawfully entering a homeowner’s property may have a difficult time making a case against the homeowner.

Reasonably believing threat of serious harm existed

For homeowners to successfully defend themselves against intruders in court, they must demonstrate that they reasonably believed there was a threat of serious harm or death. This means that homeowners need to provide evidence showing that they had a legitimate reason to believe their safety or the safety of their family was at risk.

It is crucial for homeowners to be able to articulate why they perceived the intruder as a threat in order to establish their legal defense.

No excessive or unnecessary force used against intruder

While homeowners have the right to defend themselves, it is important to note that they must use reasonable force. This means that if a homeowner uses excessive or unnecessary force against an intruder, it could potentially weaken their legal defense.

It is crucial for homeowners to exercise restraint and only use the amount of force necessary to protect themselves and their property. Using excessive force could result in legal consequences for the homeowner.

Intruder was injured while committing a felony

In some cases, the outcome of a lawsuit brought by an intruder against a homeowner may depend on the nature of the intruder’s actions. If the intruder was injured while committing a felony, such as burglary or assault, it could significantly impact their ability to successfully sue the homeowner.

Courts may view the injury as a direct consequence of the intruder’s criminal actions, rather than the homeowner’s defense.

It is important to remember that each case is unique and dependent on the specific circumstances. While there have been instances where burglars have sued homeowners and won, these cases are not the norm.

Homeowners generally have legal protections in place that allow them to defend themselves and their property. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to defend yourself against an intruder, it is recommended to consult with a legal professional who can provide guidance based on your specific situation.


In conclusion, cases where burglars sue homeowners and win judgments do occasionally happen, but they are relatively rare. California laws generally allow use of force in self-defense against intruders, but caution against using excessive force or setting intentional traps. While home invasions are violating crimes, homeowners must be careful not to cross legal lines themselves when defending their family and property. Consulting a lawyer is recommended if an intruder is injured during a break-in. With prudent judgment, homeowners can avoid potential lawsuits, even when protecting their home is necessary.

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