The case involves Sharon, a tenant in Springfield Arms Apartments, which rents primarily to students. Sharon was attacked one evening by an intruder who forced the lock on the sliding glass door of Sharon’s apartment on the ground floor. Sharon screamed and attracted Darryl, the resident manager, who came to help her and together they drove off the intruder. However, they were badly injured by the intruder before driving him off.
Liability of the Intruder for his Actions
The intruder is liable for his actions which include unlawfully breaking into someone else’s house and causing physical harm to Sharon and Darryl. In general, various jurisdictions categorize the intruder’s action as home invasion, which is defined as breaking into another person’s residence with the intention of committing a crime (Johnstone and Johstone, 2010). In the context of the case, the intruder forced the lock on the sliding glass door, which is usually a vulnerable point to break into a house. Invading someone’s home attracts harsh punishment since the physical integrity as well as the security of people in their houses is highly held by the law. In law, home invasion is deemed complete upon the intruder’s entry into the house regardless of whether they have managed to commit the intended crime (Banfi, 2011).
In addition, the intruder is liable for the injuries he caused on both Sharon and Darryl as the law treats harshly home invasion with someone at home. This is because the risk of violent confrontation and injuries increases with someone at home. Under the “castle doctrine”, a home is considered the castle of its owner and the owner is entitled to use force in cases of burglary and invasions (Johnstone & Johnstone, 2010).
Legal Duties and Responsibilities of the Owner to Sharon and Darryl
The landlord has some duties and responsibilities to Sharon as their tenant. First, it is the responsibility of the landlord to ensure that the house is fit to live in (Daughety and Reinganum, 2006). Therefore, maintenance and repair of the house is the responsibility of the landlord. In this case, the landlord has the responsibility to ensure the lock on the sliding door is repaired and that the door is restored to a secure state. In addition, it is the duty of the landlord to ensure the safety of the tenant and therefore, they should have ensured the lock on Sharon’s door was not easy to force (Stewart, Warner and Portman, 2014).
The landlord’s legal responsibility to a resident manager is workers’ compensation insurance to pay for medical expenses arising from injuries due to their job (Mallor, 1998). Darryl got injured due to the nature of his job and the landlord has the duty to ensure the medical expenses incurred are catered for through an insurance policy.
Potential Torts in this Case
Potential torts in this case include negligence and intentional torts. Under negligence, a potential tort could be injury to Sharon due to the landlord’s negligence to ensure the security of the house. Sharon may argue that the landlord failed to provide a more secure lock to the sliding door. In addition, personal injury to Sharon could be argued to be due to lack of security personnel in Springfield Arms Apartments, who could have deterred the intruder. It might be argued that this security negligence led to the attack (Daughety & Reinganum, 2006).
Intentional torts are acts that a person commits intentionally with a foreseeable harm known to them (Banfi, 2011). Intentional torts in this case are committed by the intruder. Among the torts include trespass or house invasion, which is unlawful entry into another person’s house with the intention of committing a crime. Trespass is a property tort as it involves interference with the rights to the property of the claimant (Daughety, & Reinganum, 2006). The owner of the apartment can sue the intruder for trespass and the resultant damages. In addition, the intruder committed the torts of assault and battery that left Sharon and Darryl physically injured. Battery is the actual intentional act of causing physical harm to a person’s body (Banfi, 2011). The intruder is liable for the tort of battery, which is defined as an intentional and voluntary cause of unconsented harm or offense with direct contact to the person.
Mitigating the Risk of the Potential Torts
There are various mitigations to the potential torts in this case. First, the intruder could argue on the defense of consent and warning where the victims consented to the risky activity either implicitly or explicitly (Daughety, & Reinganum, 2006). However, the victims can overcome such claims by arguing that they were authorized to use force in defense of property by driving away the intruder. In defense of a property, a person is allowed to apply reasonable force to drive away or restrain an intruder but deadly force may not be used for the mere defense of property (Banfi, 2011).
Mitigation of a tort entails the injured person taking reasonable steps to reduce damages or eliminate possible damages, cost, injury, and to prevent their worsening (Betlem, 2005). In this case, the victims, Sharon and Darryl, should seek medical attention to avoid worsening of their injuries. The courts could rule in favor of the defendant not paying for additional damages that could have been mitigated as result of the plaintiff’s actions (Daughety, & Reinganum, 2006). In addition, the owner of the property needs to repair the lock and the sliding door to avoid more damages to the property. This would mitigate the risk of trespass as a tort as well since it would mitigate the worsening of damages caused by trespassing.
Ethical Principles to the Business Scenario
The ethical principles in this business scenario include beneficence, nonmalfeasance, and justice. The principle of beneficence is a guidance to do well and entails an attempt to make the world has the highest possible good over evil (Paley and Liberty Fund, 2002). This principle was violated by the intruder when he broke into Sharon’s apartment and injured her and Darryl. On the other hand, the principle of nonmalfeasance is the principle not to do harm. It states that people are obligated not to cause harm to others as stated, “First, do no harm.” (Paley, & Liberty Fund, 2002) The intruder also violated this principle by harming Sharon and Darryl.
Sharon and Darryl were to be guided by the principle of Least Harm, which requires a person to do the least harm possible in situations where no choice is beneficial (Betlem, 2005). Therefore, since beneficence could not apply absolutely when dealing with the intruder, the option was to commit to Least Harm to the intruder. Finally, the principle of Justice must apply to prescribe fair actions to the parties involved including the victims and the intruder. Any violence against the intruder could be justified since the plaintiff were protecting the property and also acting in self-defense (Daughety, & Reinganum, 2006).
Ethical Responsibilities to Sharon and Darryl
The landlord has an ethical responsibility to ensure Sharon, a tenant, lives in a safe place (Johnstone, J., & Johnstone, W. 2010). They must ensure that the doors have working locks and front doors have deadbolt lock. In addition, the landlord has an ethical responsibility to satisfactorily repair Sharon’s damaged sliding door. The landlord has to act ethically when inspections are conducted and avoid corrupt inspectors who would pass the inspection upon being bribed (Daughety, & Reinganum, 2006). Finally, the landlord has an ethical responsibility for Darryl as their resident manager including compensation for the injuries suffered while performing his duties.
- Banfi, C. A. (2011). Defining the competition torts as intentional wrongs. The Cambridge Law Journal, 70, 1, 83-112.
- Betlem, G. (2005). Torts, a European “ius commune” and the private enforcement of Community law. Cambridge Law Journal, 64, 1, 126-148.
- Daughety, A. F., & Reinganum, J. F. (2006). Markets, torts, and social inefficiency. The Rand Journal of Economics, 37, 2, 300-323.
- Johnstone, W. W., & Johnstone, J. A. (2010). Home Invasion. New York: Pinnacle/Kensington Publishing Corp.
- Mallor, J. P. (1998). Business Law and the Regulatory Environment: Concepts and Cases. Boston: Irwin/McGraw-Hill.
- Paley, W., & Liberty Fund. (2002). The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund.
- Stewart, M., Warner, R., & Portman, J. (2014). Every Landlord’s Legal Guide. Berkeley: Nolo.