He Broke In, But I’M Being Sued!
You were recently the victim of a burglary to your home. Now the [expletive removed] has sued you for injuries he sustained while breaking into your home!
Besides feeling an immense, body-shaking anger, several questions run through your mind. Can he do this? Will I really have to pay him money? Does Texas law protect people in my situation?
The Law is on Your Side.
Texas law is very clear that the burglar cannot sue you. In fact, the law has been in effect for twenty years!
Under a provision in the Civil Practices and Remedies Code, “A claimant who has been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor may not recover damages for an injury sustained during the commission of the felony or misdemeanor if the injury would not have been sustained but for the commission of the felony or misdemeanor.”
“A person is considered convicted in a case if: sentence is imposed; or the person receives a fine, probation, or deferred adjudication.”
This prevents the burglar from suing the owner of the burglarized home for injuries incurred in the process of conducting the burglary. Check out our Booby Traps on Property Blog for a discussion of protecting property in Texas.
But There Are Exceptions
The burglar can sue the landowner for injuries if “the damages arose from an act entirely separate from any act intended to result in the: prevention of the commission of a felony or misdemeanor by the [burglar]; or apprehension of the [burglar] during or immediately after the commission of the felony or misdemeanor.”
Additionally, the burglar can sue for injuries if “the damages did not arise from a premises defect or other circumstance that the claimant was exposed to as a result of the commission of the felony or misdemeanor.”
These exceptions mean that the convicted criminal can bring suit only if he can show that his injuries were caused from an act other than one intended to prevent the crime or apprehend the criminal. Further, the convicted criminal can bring suit if he can show that his damages did not arise from a premises defect or other circumstance to which the claimant was exposed as a result of the commission of the crime.
Basically, in order for the burglar to sue the landowner, his injuries must be caused by something other than an action to prevent the crime, apprehend the criminal, or some defect on the land that the burglar was exposed to simply by trying to commit burglary.
Can the Burglar’s Family Sue Me?
You may be familiar with derivative claims that allow, among other things, family members to sue and recover for injuries to a loved one. Well, rest easy. There is a special provision that prevents derivative claims by the burglar’s family.
“If the claimant’s right to recovery results from an injury to a convicted person, including a claim for the wrongful death of the convicted person or a claim for loss of consortium with or loss of the companionship of the convicted person.”
This means that family members cannot sue you for injury to the convicted person, the wrongful death of the convicted person, or for loss of companionship of the convicted person, if the convicted person’s right to recovery is barred as discussed above.
What If I Am Sued?
“A claimant who is barred from recovery under this chapter is liable to the person against whom the claim is brought for court costs and fees and reasonable attorney’s fees incurred in defending against the claim.
That’s right. If the burglar is a convicted person under this law, and he sues the landowner for injuries caused by his commission of the burglary, he has to pay the landowner’s court costs and fees, and attorney’s fees for the case.
As with other laws, this one has exceptions and pit-falls that need consideration before a case is filed or defended. Your civil litigation attorney can help you navigate the law and discuss how these laws can be applied to your particular case.
–Authored by Carrie A. Harris, Esq.,
Matthew Harris Law, PLLC – Civil Litigation Division
1001 Main Street, Suite 200, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3309
Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479