The Cornered Cat

In his excellent book, Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected, Rory Miller talks about “glitches.” Glitches, he says, are the things that cause us to hesitate when we should be moving. A glitch can be caused by an unexpected emotional reaction, an unresolved moral dilemma, or an unanticipated concern we haven’t addressed before the encounter. A glitch can make us freeze rather than fight or flee, and it can cost us our lives in a bad situation.

One common glitch lies in the financial area. I’ve talked to a lot of people over the years who were extremely worried about getting sued by the criminal or by his surviving family if they defended their lives. Some of these folks felt such a strong fear of lawsuits that they were unwilling to carry a firearm.

A fear of lawsuits isn’t unreasonable, because lawsuits do happen. For example, from the news this week, there’s this story about a 90-year-old man who shot an intruder after the intruder had already shot him—and now the criminal, who survived, has sued the old man for negligence. This particular lawsuit will almost certainly go nowhere, but that’s not what I wanted to talk about today. Nope. What I wanted to do here was to ask you a question, one that you may need to think about before you answer. It should help you think through some of your own boundaries and maybe find a glitch you didn’t realize was there.

First, one more piece of background. When the intended victim fought back, he had every reason to believe the criminal was going to kill him, and that his only hope of survival was to shoot the attacker. He chose to survive.

Okay, now the question. It’s a “think it through” question, so don’t just toss off a knee-jerk answer. Think about it. Ready? Here it is:

Which is more important to you—your bank account, or your life? Why?

6 Responses to Lawsuits

  1. momwithagun says:

    On one level, this is an easy call – I am determined to do everything in my power to survive. If I die at a predator’s hand, I’ll die fighting, and if I have to choose between his life or mine, I’m doing everything in my power to make sure it’s not mine.

    On the other hand, I also recognize that staying alive only to spend years in a prison cell and to watch my family become destitute and homeless to satisfy a civil judgment and legal fees is a bit of a pyrrhic victory. And it’s certainly true that there’s a non-zero risk that the bad guy you shot – or his surviving family members, if things turn out that way – could well turn around and sue you.

    But for me, self-defense, armed or otherwise, is about risk mitigation. It’s about balance of probabilities. It’s about consciously and deliberately choosing the lesser evil, and as a consequence of that, it’s about getting conscious about which IS the lesser evil. And on balance of probabilities, my odds are a lot higher being at the justice system’s tender mercies than they are betting my safety on the predator’s merciful nature.

  2. DaddyBear says:

    momwithagun hit it on the head. You’re more likely to prevail in front of a judge than you are in front of a bad guy. Being presented with either is optimal, but if you have to pick your poison, the courtroom is better than the emergency room.

  3. orygunmike says:

    After sitting through Day 1 of Massad Ayoob’s LFI-1, and having heard some of the horror stories involving citizens being prosecuted for using their firearm in self defense, I was shaken. I questioned whether carrying a firearm would do me more harm than good. It was something that Ayoob said during Day 2 that forever changed my thinking as to whether charrying a a gun was worth it. In eloquent terms, Ayoob asked each of us to think about our loved ones. He told us the decision to carry wasn’t just about us, but it was about those who loved us and depended on us for financial security and all the other ways our kids and spouses depend on us. To not make plans for or take precautions to make sure we came home at night was nothing short of selfish. While I treasure my own life and consider it a gift of God, I also know that to allow some person to take me away from them without doing what I could reasonable do to win any such confrontation is unthinkable, and part of my responsibility to my family.

  4. larryarnold says:

    The other things you can do are:
    1. Check your state law to see if it limits such lawsuits. (Texas does, somewhat.)
    2. Work with your state RKBA organization and others to get such a law passed. (Lots of times it’s part of castle doctrine or stand-your-ground.)
    3. Don’t live in California, where the lawsuit was filed.

    • momwithagun says:

      Unfortunately, speaking from the vantage point of someone who (a) lives in California at the moment, and (b) has worked as a paralegal and has more than a passing familiarity with the law, it’s unquestionably the case that item #3 on Larry’s list is no protection against nonsense lawsuits.

      In point of fact, California has a law that prohibits claims of negligence where “the plaintiff’s injuries were in any way
      proximately caused by the plaintiff’s commission of any felony, or
      immediate flight therefrom, and the plaintiff has been duly convicted
      of that felony”. Assuming the burglar in the case Kathy linked to is duly convicted, his lawsuit will be dismissed as barred by the section of the CA Civil Code I linked to.

      The problem is, even if the lawsuit is ultimately thrown out (or the homeowner ultimately wins it), there are still real costs to the armed citizen that begin at the moment he or she is sued and that don’t end until the lawsuit is dismissed or won. I was involved in a lawsuit in another context a few years ago, and although we ultimately won the case, it took a year of fighting, no small amount of stress and heartache, and tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to get there.

      There’s little chance of sanctions, against either criminal or criminal’s lawyer, for filing cases like this, and there IS a cost to defending against them even when you win.

  5. Joe Huffman says:

    There are really two different points (or a continuum if you really want to get picky about it) to this line of thinking. One is defending your life and/or the life of your loved one(s). The other is defending the life of a stranger.

    I have decided that the life of a stranger is not worth my bank account unless the situation is extremely clear cut with lots of witnesses. I have others that depend upon my financial well-being and I’m not willing to sacrifice their well-being for that of someone else who many not even really appreciate it.

Post a Comment