Portland Man Settles $400,000 Civil Suit After Self-Defense Shooting

David Berkowitz via Flickr

In many states, if you shoot someone in justified self-defense and are cleared of criminal charges, the person you shot (or his family) can still sue you for damages in civil court. That’s the case in Oregon where a small business owner named Charlie Win Chan recently paid out $400,000 in just such a lawsuit.

Before you ask: this case did go to a grand jury, and the grand jury declined to indict Chan for any criminal wrongdoing. In their eyes, the shooting looked like a justified self-defense homicide. The details of the incident, which occurred on Feb 20, 2017, are as follows:

Jason Gerald Petersen, 32, was a schizophrenic homeless man who’d spent the previous night camping out on the doorstep of Chan’s insurance agency and subsequently left his sleeping bag and other belongings on the stoop. When 51-year-old Charlie Chan got to work in the morning, he took the stuff off the doorstep, tossed it into the garbage bin beside his business, and locked the bin.

According to Chan’s statement to police, Petersen walked into the insurance agency sometime that afternoon, told Chan he’d slept on the porch that night, and asked after his stuff. After Chan told Petersen he threw the belongings away, Petersen threatened to kill him and torch his business. Petersen lunged forward, Chan said, and at point blank range, Chan fired a single round into Petersen’s abdomen out of his 22-caliber revolver.

Chan, who is 5′ 6″, told investigators that he’d feared for his life, believing the younger, slightly taller man could overpower him.

Although Chan was cleared of criminal charges, an opportunistic attorney found a way to argue that he was sufficiently in the wrong to owe civil damages. From Insurance Business Magazine:

An attorney for Petersen’s estate claimed in court papers that Chan did not actually offer to open up the locked garbage bin when Petersen asked.

“Instead, Chan threatened to call the police and Petersen immediately left the building,” wrote Robert Le, attorney for Petersen’s estate. “Chan followed him outside, where there was a second verbal altercation between Petersen and Chan on the property.”

Le added that the dispute culminated in Chan drawing one of the many guns he carries on his person and shooting Petersen.

That’s how Chan ended up paying $400,000 in damages to Petersen’s “estate,” a.k.a. the 32-year-old’s bottom-feeding parents. And Chan can consider himself lucky, believe it or not, because the damages actually sought by the family exceeded $15 million.

Of that $400,000 settlement amount, the attorney will be paid $160,000. After payouts for other costs, including a second law firm and expert witnesses, Petersen’s family will receive between $134,000 and $182,000.

comments

  1. avatar Rick the Bear says:

    One of “many guns he carried”? I wonder why he picked the .22? And, how did he keep his pants up?

    Seriously, this sort of treatment is what spawned CC “insurance “.

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      I’ve heard people claim that you should carry 3, but at best that would be ‘one of the several’ not ‘many’. I’m thinking it takes 6 or 7 to constitute ‘many’. Me, I carry one .357 magnum revolver, so I don’t need backups.

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        I heard a quote about that, concerning .357s. Seems like it went “None is none, but one is several!”, or something like that. “Zat right?

        1. avatar Roymond says:

          I also carry a .357, and I was told that same thing — but was also told that it means that the .357 can shoot several different kinds of cartridges including the .38 Special.

      2. avatar raptor jesus says:

        Most of the studies show average of 5 shots, and recommend at least 8 on hand.

        If I’ve got a modern semi-auto, I carry the gun and that’s it.

        If I’m carrying a revolver, I also carry a back up revolver, because rather than attempt to reload a revolver, I go for the New York Reload. That leaves me with 10-12 rounds on hand. Plenty to defend and extricate myself.

        I’m not fighting off ninja hordes like most of the Walter Mitty fantasies people on here seem to live.

        Anybody who’s ever shot any competition where you move and reload knows you can’t rely on the mythic .357 or .45 or what have you to guarantee an instant, one shot soul-obliterating stop – because first you have to actually hit your target – so it never hurts to increase the chances of hitting.

      3. avatar Sian says:

        “Why do you carry 3 guns?”

        “4 would be ostentatious.”

      4. avatar Frekki says:

        I carry a Ruger LCP, 380 auto dumdum, with two modified mags for 14 rounds. If I can’t stop you with seven I deserve to be overrun.

    2. avatar BLAMMO says:

      And why Andrew Cuomo wants to make CC insurance (like NRA Carry Guard) illegal in NY and make personal liability insurance mandatory for all gun owners.

    3. avatar Seizure doc says:

      As Isaac Hayes says in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, “You can never have enough,brother.”

  2. avatar D says:

    We need to replace the criminal justice system with the victim justice system

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      Define ‘victim’.

      1. avatar Scott says:

        Anyone who is not white, male, or Christian.

        1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          Or ‘cisgendered’.

          Whatever the hell that means…

  3. avatar Sam I Am says:

    Even in localities where victory in criminal court can provide a shield against civil charges, there can be some chicanery. In our state, the prosecuting DA must officially close a case with a formal, published decision that the accused will not be further pursued, and the case is considered permanently closed. If the DA decides to hold the case “open” (for lack of the proper legal term), civil cases may be filed. Even if the DA intends to formally close the case, the normal time lag between acquittal of criminal charges, and the publication of the closure of the case permits filing civil suits.

    Not all state laws are like this…some may be worse.

    1. avatar Manse Jolly says:

      Yes, ”’Memorandum of Closure”’ I think it’s called.

      1. avatar Sam I Am says:

        “Yes, ”’Memorandum of Closure”’ I think it’s called.”

        Yes, I believe that is it. Thanx for the reminder.

    2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Sam I Am,

      You bring up an interesting point. My state provides civil immunity for legitimate self-defense. What I do not know is, what must happen in order for our legal system to enforce that immunity?

      Is it enough if the police investigate and declare that self-defense was righteous?
      Does a Grand Jury have to declare that self-defense was righteous?
      Does a prosecutor have to declare that self-defense was righteous?
      Does your case have to go to trial and have a jury render a not guilty verdict?

      1. avatar Sam I Am says:

        “What I do not know is, what must happen in order for our legal system to enforce that immunity?”

        It all depends…

        On your state and locality. In my state, the DA must first bring charges. If the decision is that no charges will be filed, you could still be eligible for civil suit if the DA doesn’t file official memorandum of no charges/case closed. It seems not to be a matter of trial or grand jury, but the document from the DA. I didn’t get to talk to the self-defense attorney long enough to get complete list of possibilities, but enough to know that, as they say, “Every bullet has a lawyer attached”. Which is why I have self-defense legal service.

  4. avatar Huntmaster says:

    So what really happened?

  5. avatar former water walker says:

    No BODY-no crime. This is some serious BS…

  6. avatar Cruzo1981 says:

    They deserve nothing…

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      They lost a close relative whom they loved and adored so much they left him homeless out on the streets. And now that he’s gone they’re probably struggling without his substantial income to support them. Should have gone to trial and they should have been interrogated by a skilled litigator over their relationships with the deceased.

      1. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

        Savage but very true.

        “Should have gone to trial and they should have been interrogated by a skilled litigator over their relationships with the deceased”

        I want to agree here, but the judge and jury you’d probably get in Portland would have you ice skating uphill even before opening arguments. Settling was probably the wisest choice for the victim to make.

      2. avatar Frekki says:

        They’ve already smoked all that money up.

  7. avatar Gregory Peter DuPont says:

    Another reason to make certain that your story is the only one heard in court.
    If they’re worth shooting, they’re worth shooting twice. Hearts And Minds, people.

    1. avatar Sam I Am says:

      “Hearts And Minds, people.”

      Are you talking two center mass, one in the head?

    2. avatar Scott says:

      Two to the heart, one to the mind.

  8. avatar jwm says:

    Chan would have been better off to just leave the homeless dudes stuff next to the dumpster. Avoiding these situations can save a lot of time and money.

    Last time I got a check for 150 grand the feds took 36 grand right off the top in taxes. Dead guys folks won’t see much after all is said and done. Even still it’s probably the biggest pay day they’ve ever had and all it cost them was a kid they probably dreaded seeing show up at their door.

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      I don’t think the settlement is taxable because it’s supposedly compensation for a loss. I received a settlement from a motorcycle accident that was the other drivers fault and I didn’t owe any taxes for it.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        I’ve never got one of those. I’ve always had to pay taxes.

        1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          Not even a dented fender?

          If any of it is earmarked as ‘wage compensation’ it’s taxable as regular income.

        2. avatar jwm says:

          I’ve been in wrecks. But I never needed any medical help afterwards. My vehicles needed help, just not me.

          I’m a Bumble and Bumbles bounce.

        3. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          Well you didn’t have to pay taxes on the insurance check because it’s compensation for a loss. Even if you choose not to fix the dent, the resale value of your car has taken the hit, so no taxes. There’s also no federal tax on ‘pain and suffering’ so compensation for that is not taxable. Wages are taxable though, so in a wrongful death claim there is usually a claim against future lost wages and those should be taxable. In this case it doesn’t appear that the ‘victim’ was earning wages or likely to do so in the future so I doubt any of this settlement is taxable.

      2. avatar kevin says:

        A decent attorney will claim lost income to drive up the settlement amount but make the settlement agreement read “compensation” only. Besides, it unlikely a schitzo homeless dude would earn any income in the future, much less give it to his parents.

  9. avatar Steve says:

    Doesn’t surprise me – I had a former landlord sue me to fund upgrades to his rental property in order to sell it off quickly when I finally scraped up enough cash to buy a home in Portland this last year. He took $6000 and he knew I just bought a home and could not afford to hire a lawyer to fight it (I *DID* hire a lawyer, but couldn’t afford to fight the case in court). The real irony was, I had offered to buy the home as-is for 4 years before getting sick of the run around. The rental property (which was newer and arguably nicer) ultimately sold for less than I paid for my new home.

    All in all, I effectively paid out almost $10,000 as he kept my deposit and the lawyer took nearly $1000. Before anyone says “why didn’t you take photos, etc.”… I did, I just didn’t have the cash on hand to actually fight and win the case in circuit court after just buying a home (landlord requested a jury trial for this very reason).

    1. avatar Steve says:

      I rambled a bit, but my guess is, Chan settled for what he could afford to in the legal fight. It sounds like someone was bankrolling the deceased’s estate to make this a political thing.

    2. avatar strych9 says:

      I know how this is. Went through it. Cost me $3500 in legal fees and most of my deposits.

      But in the end it may have saved me tens of thousands in bullshit when the landlord tried to accuse me of causing problems in the house which were actually caused by their failure to ever do a goddamn thing to upkeep the place.

      I probably should have sued them over the whole thing just on general principle but that wasn’t really worth the time and money.

    3. avatar Sam I Am says:

      The lawsuit game can get treacherous.

      My brother is an architect and a builder. He designed and built a set of condos on the east coast, just off the beach. Two years later, the guy my brother built the condos for sued my brother for $1,000,000. The claim was that the condos did not meet the agreed upon specifications. My brother was not in financial condition to fund much legal assistance, and eventually relied on his professional liability (errors and omissions) insurance to pay the bill. The insurance company paid, and promptly dropped my brother.

      At a townhall meeting to update building codes for a small community, the guy who sued my brother was on the board. He cornered my brother during a coffee break and told my brother that he was sorry he had to sue. Turned out the condo owner sold off all the condos, but needed $1,000,000 to begin construction on a new set of beachfront condos, and knew my brother could not afford an attorney. Thus, my brother was just a gambit to raise money; nothing personal, “jes biddness”.

      From then on, my brother’s contracts stipulated that once the property was “signed-off” by the client, the client was required to purchase a warranty on the properties, and waive any future claims, of any kind.

      1. avatar PPGMD says:

        Fausto Alarcon: [In Spanish] It wasn’t personal.
        Alejandro: [In Spanish] It was for me.

  10. avatar Red in CO says:

    Why not kill the parents and their lawyer? Using deadly force against a group attempting to use the threat of force to steal millions sounds like an ethically (if not legally) airtight matter to me

    1. avatar Arizona Free says:

      Exterminating a lawyer is for the most part not illegal. Soulless and void of ethics ranks them just under pond scum.

  11. avatar Nanashi says:

    Some bottom feeding thugs need to find the house of the bottom-feeding parents. Should be an easy payday.

    1. avatar Southern Cross says:

      They will when word gets ’round the ‘hood about their recent payday and the cockroaches emerge for a handout.

  12. avatar Aaron Walker says:

    Lawyer’s have helped “reason away” all OUR rights! Destorying Freedom in OUR once great nation!

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      Your rights are subservient to their fat paychecks. At least in their minds.

  13. avatar NORDNEG says:

    Oregone really sucks when it comes to guns, that state is run by very liberal Democraps , that will take every thing you got if they can, whole west coast is that way , just exactly like the east coast,,, they don’t care if you’re right, the politicians hate guns, Sanctuary States, all of them. Crooks & illegals have more rights than the real Americans. Lawyers love it. This is true .

  14. avatar strych9 says:

    Back in the day I thought about attending law school.

    Cases like this are why I decided that being a lawyer might pay well but wasn’t a profession I could probably live with.

    1. avatar No one of consequence says:

      Likewise, actually.

      Some lawyers provide needed services – estate planning, for instance – but the ones I know personally are the first to say the code is too complicated if the average person needs their services.

  15. avatar Mike Smith says:

    Always conceal your assets! I’m sure if this was a guy working a normal job with lots of debt he’d never get sued. The first question an attorney asks is “who has deep pockets?”

    1. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

      If you run your own business you’re always going to be targeted by these leeches.

  16. avatar Maureen T. Gyory says:

    Perfect example of what I constantly preach to students, “If it is not imminent threat, call 911 and let the Police do their job”.

  17. avatar Darkman says:

    Fortunately in my state this can’t happen as the legislature passed and the Governor signed into law provisions preventing such bullshit.

  18. avatar jwm says:

    Why did Chan follow the soon to be dead guy outside? It cost him a lot of money to learn a very basic lesson. If the threat is leaving, let it.

    1. avatar GS650G says:

      He should of called cops and reported his terroristic threats. Let them arrest his smelly crazy ass and leave it at that.

    2. avatar Hannibal says:

      I’m guessing the guy was threatening to break into wherever his previous belongings were kept or commit some other sort of vandalism. Still would have been better to call the cops… but in portland they might have just sat there and watched it happen.

  19. avatar Sean G./The Rookie says:

    What a mess. I found this article from 2017 that had some interesting details:

    https://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2017/02/man_killed_in_southeast_portla_1.html

    It appears at one point the family tried to get Peteresen committed, but the courts decided his situation apparently didn’t meet that threshold.

    I get that involuntary commitment is something that should have a high bar to clear, but criminy. The guy was out of control whenever he stopped taking his meds and clearly had been violent in the past. Peterson shouldn’t have been on the streets in the first place.

  20. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    This reminds me of rapists who have taken their victims to court. This would never happen one or two hundred years ago. But our morality has changed. And morality has very little to do with sex.

  21. avatar Timothy Toroian says:

    Sounds like trial attorney nonsense to me. There should be a law that if cleared by a criminal court there can be no civil trial.

    1. avatar Chris Mallory says:

      If they are cleared for a deliberate act, sure. But if they were cleared because the action was accidental then a lawsuit should still be an option.

      If you shoot someone in self defense do not say the “gun accidentally went off” . That is an opening for a lawsuit.

    2. avatar Hannibal says:

      The problem is that a criminal court threshold is much higher than civil. Imagine if every civil case had to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt? However, if a grand jury doesn’t even indict… yeah.

  22. avatar AlanInFL says:

    One of the main reason for Tort reforms.

  23. avatar Kyle says:

    When my very liberal family asks me why I dont move to (liberal hellhole) Oregon from (Liberal hellhole) California, I point to stories like this.

  24. avatar Anymouse says:

    This is a major reason for the “me and mine” policy that people were criticizing in the Family Dollar shooting. Protecting a stranger that’s threatened, but not necessarily going to take execute violence. BANG! There goes savings for your kids’ college, your retirement savings, your emergency funds, your vacation savings, a judgement on your future earnings, and anything else they can squeeze a buck out of. Even if you win, you still have to shell out for civil defense attorney, and maybe a criminal one too. In this case, either Chan had the proper insurance (since he’s an insurance agent) and he won’t pay anything, or he’s too stupid to counsel someone on insurance and deserves to be out of business.

  25. avatar GS650G says:

    Dead men tell no tales. Or file lawsuits.

    1. avatar No one of consequence says:

      Their families and estates do, however, which is what happened here if you read the article….

      1. avatar GS650G says:

        Read it. Still applies.

  26. avatar Bohucka says:

    Numbah One Son could have helped poor Charlie Chan out of this pickle.

    If you miss it…never mind.

  27. avatar Dan says:

    The plaintiff needs to invest in surveillance recording for his business. The civil case ended up revolving around the a story with no corroboration. If he did indeed follow the homeless man outside and THEN shot him he’s lucky he got off with no charges and only $400K in damages.
    If however his story was true and he was INSIDE than a video of said action might have dissuaded the jury from believing the BS about the homeless guy from the parasitic shyster.

  28. avatar possum says:

    Here’s how it would have went down in possums world, ” left your stuff on my stoop,? oh sht I threw it in the trash, let’s go see if it’s still there, sorry man, I didn’t know it was yous.” This world has lost its compassion. Chan deserves what he got

    1. avatar No one of consequence says:

      The world has lost its compassion, I think, because so many people now abuse the compassion of others. Get burned a time or two, it tends to harden one’s heart … or you hear so many of the same stories it burns you out.

      Especially in cities. My wife tells me that when she lived in NYC, for instance, there was the guy on her subway train who, every day for three years, would be begging for change so he could buy diapers for his newborn baby.

  29. avatar ollie says:

    Homeless persons should all be rounded up and put into government camps until the unlikely event that they get their shit together. Poor parenting is to blame for most cases, the child is spoiled and then doesn’t want to work or become productive as an adult.

    1. avatar John E> says:

      Most homeless people are mentally ill, or have a co-occurring disorder. Very little has to do with parenting as for most it is not a choice to be mentally ill.

      1. avatar Aaron says:

        true,, but they should still be institutionalized

  30. avatar JMR says:

    Lawyers are scumbags, and Portland is a shithole.

  31. avatar Jonathan-Houston says:

    Good for Peterson! If the reporting is accurate and the shooter really did follow him ourside, then the shooter is the guilty party.

    In Texas, anyway, you may not consent to a fight and then later claim self defense. Once the original encounter ends, even if only because the original aggressor departs, you may not pursue him and re-engage. If you pursue and start the fight up again, then you are now the aggressor. If the other guy attacks you, it is now in response to your provocation.

    Let this case be a lesson to all. Present and discharge your firearm only when you are the victim and did not consent to the fight.

  32. avatar FlamencoD says:

    I don’t know the whole story so I’m not casting judgement.

    But, Sheesh, the lawyers now get 40%? That’s downright unbelievable. I’m sure they’d argue “even though you’re only getting 60%, it’s still more than you’d get without me!”

    And, how do you know the parents are bottom dwellers? Is every parent of a criminal a bottom dweller, or did the fact that they sued make them a bottom dweller? I can see how they think their son got the short end of the stick if Chan indeed followed him outside and furthered the altercation.

    1. avatar Chris Mallory says:

      Our newly elected, Republican, Army vet jailer just had his son get arrested for 1st Degree Assault and 1st Degree Robbery. He tried to rob a dealer and his partner got shot.

      I am sure these guys will be calling the jailer a “bottom feeder” right?

  33. avatar Chris Mallory says:

    I do hope that none of the “tough guys” on here never have a child or grandchild suffer from mental illness.

    They way some of you sound you would have joined the cops in beating Kelly Thomas to death.

  34. avatar Aaron says:

    crazy people often don’t know know that they are crazy, and usually can’t really do anything about it.

    if you understand that, then maybe you would deal with them a little differently.

  35. avatar Old law prof says:

    Minnesota Statutes section 611A.08 (1993) says the crimonsl “assumes the risk” and neither he nor his heirs can sue. Case closed at an early pre-trial hearing.

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