The Richmond Register

December 1, 2012

The case of the plucky merchant

You be the judge

By Jack Strauss
Register Columnist

RICHMOND — Jimmy owned a general store that had everything in it except a general – and he could have used one. In fact, he could have used a whole army since hold-up men came around almost as frequently as customers.

One night, Jimmy decided – army or no army to help him – he was going to put a halt to being victimized by transient gunmen. Waving a baseball bat over his head, he chased a would-be robber out of his store. Unfortunately, before disappearing around a corner – with Jimmy in hot pursuit – the robber shot the plucky merchant in the leg.

Badly hobbled by the bullet, Jimmy filed a claim with his insurance company to collect under an accident policy.

“There was no accident,” he was told. “The gunman aimed at you, and hit you. You were his intended target. So, where’s the accident?”

“In being shot,” was Jimmy’s answer. “Since I obviously didn’t intend to get shot, being shot was an accident.”

The dispute ended up in court.

IF YOU WERE THE JUDGE, would you permit the plucky merchant to collect under his accident policy?

This is how the judge ruled: NO! The judge held that when a person chases a gunman, he sets himself up as a clay-pigeon and can anticipate being shot. Consequently, concluded the judge, if he does get shot, it was foreseeable and no accident.

(Based upon a 1929 Tennessee Supreme Court Decision)

Jack Strauss, a retired New York City trial attorney who now resides in Berea, wrote a syndicated column for 36 years called, “What’s the Law?” It appeared in papers coast to coast, including the Pittsburgh Press, the Los Angeles Examiner, the Hartford Times, the Kansas City Star and the Philadelphia Daily News, among many others. It appears here with his permission.

© 1978, United Feature Syndicate, Inc.