Prince’s Briefcase: Ranson v. Kitner (Hicks Torts)


Hicks Torts: Intentional Torts–“Mistake”

Here is a case from Torts class which explains the concept of a “Mistake” as an intentional tort. And in this case, mistaking a dog for a wolf is enough to be liable for an intentional killing.

Case Name, Citation Number, Author
Ranson v. Kitner, Appeals Court of Illinois, 31 Ill. App. 241 1889

prince's briefcase (princesdailyjournal)Facts
–Appellant (Kitner) killed Appelle’s (Ranson) dog on a hunting trip
–Appellant says Ranson’s dog looked like a wolf
–Judgment rendered $50 in favor of the Ransom for shot dog
–Kitner appealed verdict

Issue
Did the defendant intend to kill the dog?
Was it a mistake?

Rule
If there is no intention, a mistake is sufficient to be liable for tort (shooting a dog)

Explanation
No material error occurred to the prejudice of appellants (Kitner)

Notes
–The value of hunting is to kill, therefore there was an intent–regardless of a mistake.
–Trespass to chattel case–chattel being the dog.

Prince’s Takeaway
If the justice system of 1889 can see that shooting an unarmed dog is a tort, then the justice system of today should also see that shooting an unarmed human being is a tort, if not manslaughter.
Mistake for a wolf or mistake for a criminal is sufficient (or enough) to be liable for a killing. The intent of using a weapon is to kill–the intent is there.

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