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Old 06-01-2014, 03:23 AM   #1
Gunslinger
 
Joined: Jun 2013
From: Bellingham, WA
Posts: 46
Criminal suing over a rightous shooting

I'm concerned about being sued by a criminal or the criminal's family if I'm involved in a justified homicide. What does the state of Washington have to say about allowing or forbidding such lawsuits?
 
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Old 06-02-2014, 11:44 AM   #2
Rifleman
 
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Joined: Jul 2011
From: Seattle
Posts: 124
Sure, you could get sued. You can get sued for pretty much anything at any time.

This is exactly what insurance is designed for. Your insurance company should be able to help you decide what kind of coverage levels you need. This should be covered under a personal liability umbrella policy.

Now that we've talked about how to protect your assets : If you were really in fear for your life or the life of your family, could not de-escalate, retreat, etc. who cares if you get sued. In court is better than in the ground.
 
Old 06-07-2014, 06:39 PM   #3
Peashooter
 
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Joined: Jun 2014
From: Spokane, WA
Posts: 4
Sorry, Hawker, but you're mistaken on both counts.

In fact, a righteous self-defense shooter in Washington is statutorily protected from ALL legal liability. See RCW 9A.16.110, which says (in part):

Quote:
No person in the state shall be placed in legal jeopardy of any kind whatsoever for protecting by any reasonable means necessary, himself or herself, his or her family, or his or her real or personal property, or for coming to the aid of another who is in imminent danger of or the victim of assault, robbery, kidnapping, arson, burglary, rape, murder, or any other violent crime as defined in RCW 9.94A.030.
Which is a damn good thing, because in Allstate Ins. Co. v. Bauer, 96 Wash.App. 11 (Div. 2, 1999), the Court of Appeals determined that:

Quote:
Thus, even assuming that RCW 9A.16.110 can be read to favor insurance coverage for acts committed in self-defense, we will not invoke public policy to override the clear language of the intentional acts exclusion in an insurance policy.
In other words, when you act in self-defense, it's not an "accident" under your insurance policy but rather an intentional act--which is almost certainly excluded from your coverage.

So, frotz, it's all good news for you: You are immune from civil suit and you now know better than to waste a bunch of money on premiums for an insurance rider that won't pay off anyway. Cheers!

*This is not legal advice. I am not a lawyer in your jurisdiction or anywhere else, nor do I play one on TV. There is nothing confidential in this message because nothing herein constitutes the formation of attorney/client privilege or attorney work product because I am not an attorney and this is not legal advice. Further, any concept that typing, words, sounds, images, or other formation of communication, cogent or gibberish, is confidential once it leaves your fingertips and enters the ether is pure-D batshit insane. The NSA is monitoring all of this and probably already has you on a list, but this is not my problem because not only am I not your lawyer, I am not a lawyer at all, even on TV, and nothing contained herein is legal advice. Seek competent counsel for any legal question more serious than what cereal to have for breakfast--but not from me because I am not a lawyer and I don't give legal advice.
 
Old 06-12-2014, 12:58 PM   #4
Rifleman
 
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Joined: Jul 2011
From: Seattle
Posts: 124
I'd like to see the case law that backs that up. My lawyer and I looked at that for a little while today, and couldn't come up with a definite conclusion regarding 9A.16.110. There was a big question about what "legal jeopardy" means in this case, and if this even applies if there was no criminal trial to exonerate you.

To me, this looks more like it's designed to reimburse you for your time, legal costs, etc after a trial.

Looking up the case and reading the summary, it was a ruling regarding homeowners insurance with an intentional acts exclusion. Homeowners' coverage is not an umbrella policy, and umbrella policies cover more. Geico, for instance, will cover you for slander. They might not cover self-defense situations, they might, this is a question only your insurance company can answer.

The criminal part, if there is a criminal part, is for sure not going to be covered by anything other than your check book.

You can write a policy to cover whatever you want if you can find an underwriter to back it. It's just a contract. Given how extremely rare it would be that a) you're in the situation to need to shoot someone in self-defense and then b) you get rewarded a settlement if you were 100% in the right, it might be extremely cheap to get that insured. Or, because it's a scary gun, it might be impossibly expensive. I'm sure all bets are off if you're doing _anything_ criminal.

Quote:
Originally Posted by WalterSobchak View Post
Sorry, Hawker, but you're mistaken on both counts.

In fact, a righteous self-defense shooter in Washington is statutorily protected from ALL legal liability. See RCW 9A.16.110, which says (in part):



Which is a damn good thing, because in Allstate Ins. Co. v. Bauer, 96 Wash.App. 11 (Div. 2, 1999), the Court of Appeals determined that:



In other words, when you act in self-defense, it's not an "accident" under your insurance policy but rather an intentional act--which is almost certainly excluded from your coverage.

So, frotz, it's all good news for you: You are immune from civil suit and you now know better than to waste a bunch of money on premiums for an insurance rider that won't pay off anyway. Cheers!

Last edited by hawker; 06-12-2014 at 01:02 PM.
 
Old 06-12-2014, 04:02 PM   #5
Peashooter
 
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Joined: Jun 2014
From: Spokane, WA
Posts: 4
Quote:
My lawyer and I looked at that for a little while today, and couldn't come up with a definite conclusion regarding 9A.16.110. There was a big question about what "legal jeopardy"
You should get a new lawyer. First, it's not just "legal jeopardy," the statute states "legal jeopardy of any kind whatsoever." Ask your lawyer what the Washington State Supreme Court says about statutory interpretation. Something about plain meaning....

Quote:
Looking up the case and reading the summary
You should read the whole case. You are correct that it deals with an intentional acts exclusion, but it was in an umbrella policy (if I recall correctly. There may have been a second case I didn't cite that was an umbrella). Either way, doesn't your policy have an intentional acts exclusion?

Think about it for a minute. You go to your agent and say "I want insurance coverage for intentional acts." You think you're going get a policy for that??

Quote:
I'd like to see the case law that backs that up.
Google for news coverage of the Gerlach shooting in Spokane. The case isn't on Westlaw because it was Superior Court only--no appeal. Mr. Gerlach hasn't been sued by the family--because they can't. Sometimes there's no case law because there are no lawsuits possible. Conversely, in the history of the State of Washington, if it was possible for a criminal's family to sue over a righteous shoot, don't you think there would be caselaw on that??
 
Old 06-19-2014, 10:26 AM   #6
Rifleman
 
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Joined: Jul 2011
From: Seattle
Posts: 124
I like my lawyer just fine, thank you. I'll take an "I don't really know, I'd have to look into it more" over a wrong answer any day.

In the Gerlach shooting, the guy was acquitted by a jury, thus this statute clearly applies.

You haven't addressed the question of what happens if there is no criminal trial.

What I'm saying is that if there is no criminal trial, as far as the court is concerned, there has been no determination that you indeed acted in self-defense. The DA deciding they don't have a criminal case is not the same as being acquitted of a crime. This lawyer seems to agree that that RCW applies _after_ an acquittal Seattle Criminal Defense Lawyer | Pelley Law | What is Self-Defense in Washington State? | Pelley Law PLLC

None of this prevents a civil suit being brought against someone, requiring expensive lawyers regardless of the outcome, to go forward, it just provides a defense.

Let's also bear in mind that the standards for a civil trial are lower than a criminal trial. "preponderance of evidence" vs "beyond a reasonable doubt". So without a criminal trial to back up the self-defense argument, this might expose you to an even lower standard.

Here's an article talking about insurance policies that have an exception to the intentional act clause explicitly to cover you against civil liability in the case of self-defense. It also names two places (the NRA being one of them) that you can explicitly buy this kind of insurance.
Gun Owners Seek Out Self-Defense Insurance | Bankrate.com


So, we come back to my original thought :
Check with your insurance company about coverage, if they can't help you, someone else probably can.

Quote:
Originally Posted by WalterSobchak View Post
You should get a new lawyer. First, it's not just "legal jeopardy," the statute states "legal jeopardy of any kind whatsoever." Ask your lawyer what the Washington State Supreme Court says about statutory interpretation. Something about plain meaning....

You should read the whole case. You are correct that it deals with an intentional acts exclusion, but it was in an umbrella policy (if I recall correctly. There may have been a second case I didn't cite that was an umbrella). Either way, doesn't your policy have an intentional acts exclusion?

Think about it for a minute. You go to your agent and say "I want insurance coverage for intentional acts." You think you're going get a policy for that??

Google for news coverage of the Gerlach shooting in Spokane. The case isn't on Westlaw because it was Superior Court only--no appeal. Mr. Gerlach hasn't been sued by the family--because they can't. Sometimes there's no case law because there are no lawsuits possible. Conversely, in the history of the State of Washington, if it was possible for a criminal's family to sue over a righteous shoot, don't you think there would be caselaw on that??
 
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