Bird v. Holbrook

Facts: Holbrook (D) set up a spring-gun trap in his garden in order to catch an intruder who had been stealing from his garden. D did not post a warning. Bird (P) chased an escaped bird into the garden and set off the trap, suffering serious damage to his knee. Bird sued Holbrook for damages.

Issue: May a property owner set up a trap without notice in order to harm or catch an intruder?

Holding: He who sets spring guns without giving notice is guilty of an inhuman act, and if injurious consequences ensue, he is liable to yield redress to the sufferer.

Rationale: We put it to the principle that it is inhuman to catch a man by means which may maim him or endanger his life, and, as far as human means can go, it is the object of English law to uphold humanity and the sanctions of religion.

Rule: No man is permitted to do indirectly that which he is forbidden to do directly.

Related Cases:

  • Brock v. Copeland – “Can’t be placed for mischief”
  • Katko v. Briney Defendant’s boarded-up house kept getting broken into. The owner set a spring gun aimed at the legs of an intruder and injured an intruder who won $20,000 in actual damages and $10,000 in punitive damages.