Politician Trespasses Into House Under Construction, Breaks Leg… Sues Owners

from the crazy-lawsuit-of-the-day dept

Chris J. contributes the latest in our series of absolutely ridiculous lawsuits. Apparently NY State Senator Jim Alesi is suing a couple and their homebuilder over a broken leg he suffered. But the real story is in how he broke the leg. The couple — who it should be mentioned are constituents of Alesi — were having a home built. While it was under construction, but no one was there, Alesi suddenly decided to just go into the house and have a look (he says he was checking it out “for a friend.”) The door was locked, but he walked around back and found a basement door that was unlocked. Once inside, he tried to climb a ladder to get to the first floor, since no stairs had been built yet… and suffered serious leg injuries, requiring surgery. And now, he’s suing the homeowners and the builder.

Yes, let’s repeat that. This guy trespassed, broke into someone’s home (that was under construction at the time), and then broke his leg while trying to climb a ladder, and then decides to sue about it. And he’s a State Senator. This was not a house that was for sale. It was not open to the public in any way. Alesi was apparently cited for trespassing at the time, and everyone involved is apparently baffled that he’s suddenly suing now, for something that happened a few years ago, and on something in which it appears that he was massively at fault.

Update: Via the comments we have the full complaint and the news that he’s dropped the lawsuit and issued a typical politician’s apology, after members of his own party started ridiculing the lawsuit and asking him to drop it.

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Comments on “Politician Trespasses Into House Under Construction, Breaks Leg… Sues Owners”

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68 Comments
pixelpusher220 (profile) says:

Re: Double Standards

He was charged and ticketed for civil trespassing but the couple declined to press criminal charges in order not to make his situation worse. A nice gesture in my opinion.

It seems he waited until the statute of limitations expired on the criminal charges before filing this civil suit.

How delightful scummy of him

John Doe says:

This is just one of the many things wrong with the courts

This case should never make it to court. It should not even be allowed to be filed. This case is why I say losers of court cases should pay the winners court fees. When this guy loses the lawsuit, at least I hope he loses, he should have to reimburse the home owners for the full cost of their legal defense. That would put a stop to frivolous lawsuits.

Also, the Senator should be immediately removed from office for severe lack of intelligence.

Muin says:

Re: This is just one of the many things wrong with the courts

From an Accounting student that has taken business law(Civil Torts and Criminal Violations covered too), is that once the suit is filed it would have to go to court, but it’s easily defended against. Since it was a construction site a reasonable person would expect it to be dangerous, and it was not advertised as open to the public. Therefore the property ownser cannot be held liable for negligence.

At least that’s the reasoning I think a good lawyer would use, and then file a motion for attorneys fees after he/she won the defense. So even if it would have gone to court the chance of his winning were very slim: with or without a jury trial.

There are things property owners can be held negligent for outside the house for innocent tresspass(kids getting a ball, and hurting themselves on exposed, rusted metal.)

PRMan (profile) says:

Re: This is just one of the many things wrong with the courts

I think the loser should pay the winner the LOWEST of the 2 legal bills. That way, an individual would pay at most double what they pay now. But if an individual wins against a corporation suing them, they would get all their money back.

This would happen even if the case were dropped by either party. It could be rectified in negotiations behind the scenes, but officially, the court would render a judgment for the winner to the tune of the lower legal bills.

This would completely stop the extortion lawsuit campaigns, because if they did take someone to court and drop it, it would eat up all the profits.

Will Sizemore (profile) says:

Re: Re: This is just one of the many things wrong with the courts

That sounds fair, except that when a more well resourced entity or plaintiff wins a case because the not so well resourced, or at least not so articulate, defendant loses, the defendant has to pay the amount of the judgement, his own legal fees, AND his own legal fees over again.

Also, people would start representing themselves for fear of losing and having to pay double what their legal fees would be without that stipulation. We’d have Judge Judy style cases in the Supreme Courts!

I don’t think that this solution would completely stop anything. If anything, I think that this would increase the effectiveness that those extortion law suits have. In your model, the loser has to pay the lower of the two legal fees to the winner. The winner stands to get the judgment and a portion of their own legal fees back while the loser again has to pay all three sums. I’d sure as hell never want to defend myself against a lawyer who may in fact be able to convince a judge that I might be in the wrong.

It might be more fair to add to your model, the losing attorneys must pay their retainer and fees to the winning attorneys so that the loser is only out the legal fees and the judgement. THAT might have a more desired effect; that the lawyers won’t take a case they think they might lose, and they will be more inclined to work harder to win because they are competing for business (revenue).

Frankz (profile) says:

He waited a full 3 years for the statute of limitations to pass on the possibility of the homeowners pressing trespassing charges, then he filed his lawsuit.

Yes, and his dropping the suit and then his non-apology.
But of course, it only happened after he got so much negative publicity about it.
http://www.truecrimereport.com/2011/01/senator_jim_alesi_moron_of_the.php

Not an electronic Rodent says:

Re: Kookoo Kuci

Uh… $150,000? I though your members of congress had an extensive healthcare plan included?

On this one, this kind of lawsuit used to be a reason why british people laugh at america a lot. I’d laugh too except it’s happening increasingly over here. One of your more fragrant (read: “stinking”) exports. Gee! Thanks a lot guys 🙂

“Law is a diease…. meat[sic] the cure”

Dave W (profile) says:

I can’t comment on US law but i can give you a UK perspective – and I think some of the US readers may have their eyes pop out when you read this…

Trespass is a tort law and relates to both property and the person. However, it is overidden by parliamentary Acts in some cases and goes so far as to influence those acts. If this was in the UK – two statutes would have priority before trespass kicked in.

Strict (unavoidable) liability is applicable to all property owners and makes them liable from the outset for any injury or damage caused to a person or their property whilst on your property or neighbouring land – with or without the landowners permission. Therefore – and this has happened, if a burglar (who is trespassing with intention to hurt) injures themselves you as the landowner are primarily liable for their injuries.

Contractors who operate a site are similarly responsible for securing any site being worked upon – within reason, but they become completely liable for third party injury if the site is not secure and someone can walk on. This case would be considered a walk on.

OK – so in our fictional UK setting the landowner and contractor are now jointly responsible (though how jointly is not set down so that would be a seperate lawsuit as to whom is the most responsible – another win for the lawyers).

When it comes to those that are trespassing in this case this then works under the banner of contributory negligence. The owner/contractor becomes less liable the more negligent the trespasser is.

Got all that? Tie that in with the fact that you cannot be trespassing in the UK if someone has not correctly fenced their property (i.e. your front yard) nor can you excessively defend against intruders (yes that would mean a gun) and it makes this case frankly run-of-the-mill over here…..

John Doe says:

Re: Re:

Since you appear to know quite a bit about UK law, can you tell me what is going on in the UK as far as an individuals right to own a gun? All I hear in the US is that it is nearly impossible for citizens in the UK to own guns and that home invasions are way up. Also, if you do defend yourself, you are quite likely to get into real trouble as well. Would love to hear about the situation directly from a Brit.

(/thread hijacking off)

Not an electronic Rodent says:

Re: Re: Re:

can you tell me what is going on in the UK as far as an individuals right to own a gun

I don’t think I was 100% accurate (maybe 95%) accurate but comment 66 in this has a summary and a link. Yes as far as I know using one in home defense will get you arrested and convicted by default, though there have been people who successfully mounted a “self defense” defense in that situation.

Dave W (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Hi – sorry it took me so long to reply. Basically gun ownership in the UK falls into two categories: sport and work. There may be others better than me on this but shotguns can be kept at home (once the police have inspected your house) handguns and rifles cannot.

This is waived if the gun is required for your work – farmers tend to have shotguns for vermin control but there are land managers who need to cull deer who will have rifles.

If you want to target shoot handguns and rifles for sport i believe (citation needed) that these need to be kept at your gun club.

ALL gun ownership is strictly controlled and ownership of a gun means that your name is logged with the Chief of Police for your county/district. Gun ownership for personal protection is not allowed.

On a lighter note: try this story of a farmer who went out in his wheelchair to shoot at a fox and managed to hit two guys illicitly growing marijuana on his farm. You couldn’t make it up but i am sorry to say he has now had his licence revoked. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1339465/Farmer-shooting-fox-hits-intruders-trespassing-steal-secret-cannabis-factory.html

Not an electronic Rodent says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Air weapons (of less than 12foot pounds) are legal without certificate there are transport and use restrictions. Shotguns (but not automatic, semi-automatic or pump action) and are obtainable with a firearms certifite and background check. As I understand it, you are entitled to a shotgun cert unless the police can show good cause otehrwise. Small-bore rifles including semi-automtaic and full bore rifles require a license and grant is not guaranteed.

Handguns other than antiques and air weapons are banned.
You can keep a weapon at home but there are strenuous storage requirements – steel bolted down securely locked cabinet with weapon locked in place inside, amunition kept seperately or something similar I think – which is audited before the certificate is granted, and there are rules governing the transport of weapons too.

This seems a good summary

RikuoAmero (profile) says:

Re: Re: UK Trespass Laws

About UK trespassing laws, they are absolutely ridiculous. A few weeks ago, I read a UK newspaper, and I couldn’t believe this story. Here’s a link
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-12137756
There was this guy in his 50s/60s, he owned two houses. He was busy renovating one, so it was then unoccupied. An Eastern European man, I think he was Latvian, got together a bunch of like minded individuals, illegal immigrants the lot, and they basically squatted in the house. The paper had photos of the house being torn apart, it was a mess. They used the man’s internet access for free, held parties at all hours.
“He acknowledged that the group had put up posters in the area saying anybody trying to enter the house would be prosecuted.

“If we enter this property then it’s in our possession, so the owner has to go to court to get us out unless he lives here.””

Will Sizemore (profile) says:

I agree that if a plaintiff loses a case in court, the legal fees charged to the defendant should be charged to the plaintiff, but I disagree that our courts should deny any case be filed because the consequences are potentially far worse than having stupid cases filed.

I think this SHOULD go to a Supreme Court hearing by default, simply because he’s a Senator. His position alone should require a hearing and more importantly; his sentence should carry the weight of a Supreme Court ruling.

There must be more to the story, such as the senator was investigating some alleged wrongdoing by the builder, or perhaps he was attempting to manipulate the homeowners in some way.

The lesson here should be, don’t do anyone any favors. Press charges, no matter whom they are, because even those we elect to positions within our government may come back to get you and punish you for your kindness and/or forgiveness.

I hope this man rots in prison and we get to see him get it handed back to him on the next season of Lockdown.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I agree until the point of “don’t do anyone any favors” from that part on I strongly disagree.

Is my believe that what destroyed American values was this mindset of not caring about others, the consequences are obvious. The senator is a jackass and should be punished in some way and I’m sure he will find himself in trouble more because this kind of people are like problem magnets and will suffer, but that doesn’t mean we should not care about others.

Because there are bad people on the world it doesn’t mean we must become like them.

Jimr (profile) says:

The assumption is that the contractors/homeowners should have left the place reasonable safe at all times.

For example if a person breaks a windows to break into your home and cuts themselves on the broken glass then it is there fault. Now if you put broken glass on the floor and in the flower beds outside your windows and they get hurt it is your fault – your place was not safe. Yep gotta keep your place safe in case someone breaks in.

I am sure Jim Alesi will argue that the site was not safe.

fogbugzd (profile) says:

You haven't factored in the insurance company's role

This comes from my own family’s experience.

The other parties involved here are the insurance companies for the builder and the owners. In practice, it is the insurance companies who decide how far this goes, and they are likely to want an out of court settlement on the outside chance that they could get hit by a large settlement. So the process will be that they first settle on the amount of damage that would be due if the builder and homeowner were in fact liable. Let’s say they decide that it is $250,000. Then they will sit down and figure out what percentage is the fault of the plaintiff. This percentage will be a maximum of 90%. Since the door was unlocked, it could be lower. So, in the worse case scenario the plaintiff walks away with $25,000 minus 40% for attorney fees. It’s a sweet deal for the plaintiff and an even sweeter deal for the attorney who does not have to suffer through a broken leg. It also explains why we have so many of these types of lawsuits.

ElSteevo (profile) says:

Whether accurate or not this is what it says in paragraph 15 of the complaint:

15. That prior to and around the time of the incident which caused the injuries herein, the Trolley Brook Estates Subdivision was advertised as a new housing development that was open to the public.

It seems to me this must have been made up if he was charged with trespass. I was wondering “where is the paragraph citing that he was legally on the premises.”

The lawyer and Alesi are lucky this wasn’t filed in Federal Court, where some attorneys were recently fined $4500 for filing an “idiotic” and baseless motion; the judge was the one who called it “idiotic.”

average_joe says:

Re: Re:

Whether accurate or not this is what it says in paragraph 15 of the complaint:

15. That prior to and around the time of the incident which caused the injuries herein, the Trolley Brook Estates Subdivision was advertised as a new housing development that was open to the public.

He was apparently planning to argue that he wasn’t trespassing because the advertisement made him an invitee. An invitee is a person who enters another’s property by express or implied invitation for the purpose for which the land is held open to the public. He would have to show that the ad invited people to the development to inspect the homes that were being built. If he is an invitee, the land owner owes him a duty of due care to warn him of any dangers or to make the conditions safe if a warning would not suffice. If he’s an invitee, he has a good case.

Now, if he’s not an invitee, he’s a trespasser. The land owner has no duty of reasonable care to a trespasser who is not known to the land owner, nor is there any duty on the land owner to discover any trespassers. If he’s a trespasser, he has no case.

Gabriel Tane (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“If he is an invitee, the land owner owes him a duty of due care to warn him of any dangers or to make the conditions safe if a warning would not suffice. If he’s an invitee, he has a good case.”

I’m not sure I would say he had a good case… maybe one that wasn’t so obviously fail.

The duty for safety, as I’m sure you know, falls under the “prudent person” arena. The argument would be made over whether the actions taken by the owner were those which would be required of a prudent person to secure the property. I’d say that locking 2/3rds of the doors would be a great step in that direction. Hopefully, if it gets to trial, the judge would say that a prudent person would realize that a house ‘open to the public’ would not have required a visitor to enter through the basement and climb a ladder.

Based on what I know of the case, I don’t know that I would have been so quick to hit him with trespassing unless he really was there to do something other than look at what he thought was an open house… but on the same token, I wouldn’t hold the owners or builder liable for negligence.

We have to protect people from reasonable harm, but we don’t have to be responsible for their stupidity.

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