Legal Question in Personal Injury in Missouri

Are pepper spray booby traps legal?

I came across a product that is designed to release a fog of 4 oz of pepper spray when tripped and am curious about what kind of legal problems could be associated with it. It is not designed to be lethal or cause bodily harm so is it completely legal to use in Missouri or could it potentially open the owner to lawsuits? Would it be legal to install it against a motorcycle's frame as a deterrent to theft?

Asked on 4/28/08, 9:18 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Anthony DeWitt Bartimus, Frickleton Robertson & Gorny, PC
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Re: Are pepper spray booby traps legal?

I would hope that the manufacturer has a great products liability policy.

If you were to buy and use such a device you would likely be responsible for all harm that came to anyone who was injured by its use. It is very much like the spring-loaded shotguns that people used to leave in abandoned houses. When they went off and killed people, there were charges for manslaughter, among other things.

The problem with using one on a motorcycle is that it isn't the 44 year old biker gang member trying to rip off your bike that gets hit with the pepper spray. It's the five year old who thinks "Wow, what a spiffy bike," and then climbs on the thing, setting off the fog. If the kid has asthma, and draws that stuff into his lungs, and later dies, you could be looking at manslaughter as a consequence of trying to protect your bike.

It has been my experience that "traps" like this tend to be opportunities for people to open up self-inflicted wounds. You are just as likely to get caught by the thing as the thief you're trying to deter. Or barring that, some 80 year old who stumbles into your bike, sets off the fog, and must be decontaminated before she can be treated by paramedics.

Do not buy this product on a bet. Don't use this product unless you are independently wealthy and have millions in the bank to pay the lawyers who are going to be your new-found friends after thing thing hurts someone.

Good luck.

Read more
4/28/08, 9:55 am

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