Courvoisier v. Raymond - Case Summary

University / Undergraduate
Modified: 22nd Feb 2024
Wordcount: 541 words


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Legal Case Summary

Summary: A misguided self-defense case where liability arose from mistaken identity and wrongful injury.


In the case of Courvoisier v. Raymond (1896), the defendant, Courvoisier, was the owner of a jewellery store in Denver, Colorado. Courvoisier was alerted to a night-time burglary at his store and immediately sought help from nearby policemen.

While a crowd gathered due to the commotion, Courvoisier mistakenly thought Raymond, an innocent bystander within the crowd, was one of the robbers and shot him. In reality, Raymond had no harmful intent and was only trying to assist Courvoisier.


The key issue of Courvoisier v. Raymond is whether a person who injures another in the mistaken belief of self-defense from perceived harm, is liable for damages under tort law? It centres on the defence of mistaken identity in tortious liability.

This issue is important as it tests the limits of self-defence and the role of reasonable belief in such cases under tort law.


The Courvoisier v. Raymond case is often analysed in the sphere of tort law, specifically in relation to self-defence and mistaken identity. This case established that the reasonable belief defence in tort law extends its applicability when a defendant wrongly identifies the victim as a source of danger, but with the condition that the belief must still have been reasonable. This case also contributes to the legal discourse that a mistaken but honest belief is not always a sufficient defence.

This case is often interlinked with the famous Bird v Holbrook (1828) case, where it was established that, in civil suits, defendants cannot use self-defence as an excuse to harm innocent parties.


The court ruled in favour of Raymond (plaintiff), holding that Courvoisier was liable for the injuries inflicted upon Raymond. Even though Courvoisier genuinely, although mistakenly, believed Raymond to be the robber, he was held responsible for his harsh reaction towards an innocent bystander. Particularly, the court highlighted the requirement for the belief of danger to be reasonable.


  • Courvoisier v. Raymond, 23 Colo. 113, 46 Pac. 794 (1896)
  • Bird v Holbrook, 4 Bing 628, 130 ER 911 (1828)

Journalist Brief

The Courvoisier v. Raymond case occurred when a jeweller shot an innocent bystander, mistakenly thinking he was a burglar. The court had to decide whether a person who injures another, based on a mistaken belief of self-defense, remains accountable for the damage. Ultimately, the court held the jeweller accountable, emphasizing that, even if a person genuinely misidentifies someone as a threat, their belief must also be reasonable.


What happened in the Courvoisier v. Raymond case?

Answer: The owner of a jewellery store, Courvoisier, mistakenly identified an innocent bystander, Raymond, as a burglar and shot him.

What was the legal issue in the Courvoisier v. Raymond case?

Answer: The issue was about the application of self-defence in tort liability during cases of mistaken identity.

What was the decision of the court in the Courvoisier v. Raymond case?

Answer: The court held Courvoisier liable for Raymond's injury, asserting that even though Courvoisier believed he was acting in self-defence, his belief was not reasonable.

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