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Patterson v. Kuntz - 28 So. 2d 278 (La. Ct. App. 1946)

Rule:

A defendant using force under a reasonable apprehension of danger is not civilly liable to one whom he has cause to believe is his assailant, even though it subsequently appears that he is mistaken. Where a man reasonably expects an attack from A, and in the exercise of due care mistakes B for A, and strikes B, he is, nevertheless, excused on the ground of self-defense and apparent necessity.

Facts:

Defendant admitted shooting the plaintiff’s son, but sought to avoid liability on the ground that his act was fully justified under the circumstances of the occasion. He alleged that, for a period of more than a year prior to the shooting, defendant and his family had been repeatedly annoyed, harassed, and threatened by a prowler on and about the grounds of his residence and at the windows and doors thereof; that the object and purpose of these strange nocturnal invasions was not definitely known to him but that the intrusions were apparently directed against his wife and daughter and that he concluded, after many repetitions of the unlawful acts, that the safety and well-being of his wife and daughter was in danger; that, shortly after the beginning of the mysterious trespasses, he notified the Police Department of the City of New Orleans and that thereafter, on many occasions, summoned policemen to his home and had them stationed in and about his residence in an attempt to apprehend the intruder but without success; that, in addition, in an effort to protect his family, he installed a flood light illuminating the side yard of his premises and kept a bridge lamp with a powerful globe burning in his wife's bedroom; that, despite these precautions, the invasions into the privacy of his home became more frequent and bolder in character, causing him to fear that the intruder would actually break into his residence and attack his wife and daughter.

Issue:

Was there a valid self-defense on the part of defendant?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The court concluded that if the previous invasions upon defendant's premises were such as to lead a reasonable man to believe that the persons of his wife and daughter were insecure, then the district judge was correct in denying recovery. The court examined the record and determined that defendant was reasonable in his belief that his wife and daughter's safety was threatened. The repeated harassment, intrusions, and invasions of defendant's premises by a prowler were sufficient to cause a reasonably prudent man to believe that the invader intended bodily harm to his wife and daughter. The court held that, under the circumstances, he was warranted in repelling the invasion by use of a deadly weapon.

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