If you haven’t heard this term before, you aren’t alone. While it is known to most personal injury attorneys, “Ex turpi causa non oritur” isn’t commonly discussed outside the courtroom. That is not to say, however, that it doesn’t have meaning in your life. For instance, it could save you from a personal injury lawsuit in the future.
The term “Ex turpi causa non oritur” translates to “an action that does not arise from a dishonorable act.” In simpler terms, this piece of legal terminology prevents a person that was knowingly engaged in illegal acts to claim damages that were a result of doing so.
What does that mean to you? Consider the commonly asked question, “Can a burglar sue me for injury when breaking into my St. Petersburg home?” This is a topic that has been at the center of many conversations throughout the years, not just in living rooms and offices around the country, but also in courtrooms.
Ex turpi causa non oritur has been uttered before many judges, many times as a successful defense, but not always. For instance, in one personal injury lawsuit, an elderly man was named as the defendant after shooting through a hole in his shed and injuring another man. The other man was a burglar, attempting to break into the elderly man’s home, so some would call it an act of self-defense. The attorney was quick to site ex turpi causa non oritur on the part of his client. Unfortunately for him, in this case, the personal injury attorney and his client (the alleged burglar) won the case because it was ruled that the man was acting outside the acceptable definition of self-defense.
That is certainly not to say that you couldn’t site this particular defense should that burglar be injured on your Saint Petersburg property. As a homeowner, you do have certain responsibilities to those who visit your property, but the degree of responsibility is greatly dependent on the type of guest.
Those who are invited to dine with you in your home, of course, would have more right to compensation should they be harmed while attending the dinner party. The pool boy who was hired to care for your backyard pool could definitely win damages if hurt because of a known property defect that was not properly cared for. The burglar, though, does not reserve the same rights because of this legal term.
Trespassers, those who do not have your permission or a legal right to be on the property, are not owed the same degree of care. You do not have the duty to protect them from injury. So, the burglar who trips on the loose board of your front porch when fleeing the scene, resulting in a broken leg and dislocated shoulder, for instance, has no recourse against you.
That being said, you cannot intentionally booby trap your property to cause harm to trespassers, according to the law. This is the reason why ex turpi causa non oritur did not work in the elderly man’s favor in the above instance. A homeowner can be sued if he or she willfully intended to harm a trespasser. However, a Florida homeowner does reserve the right to use deadly force if threatened by an intruder without fear of a visit from a personal injury attorney. And, that is exactly why ex turpi causa non oritur has meaning in your life, even if you have been fortunate enough to live many years without ever knowing it.