Fact Finders: Can you be sued for using wasp spray on someone?

Wasp sprays are relatively cheap. But, will using it cost you in court?
Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 9:20 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - A violent neighbor dispute in Florida is making headlines. Investigators say one man used wasp spray against his neighbor. The neighbor responded by firing a gun.

Which brings us to our viewer question; Could you be sued or held liable if you use wasp spray in self-defense?

Wasp sprays are relatively cheap. You can get a bottle for less than $4. Many contain ingredients from the Pyrethroid family, like Prallethrin and Permethrin.

In general, you can use the spray to do what’s advertised. Press the button. Spray. Kill a wasp. People exposed to the spray can get asthma-like symptoms from brief exposure. However, in different animal studies, exposure over time has led to liver cancer and thyroid problems.

The makers of Raid Wasp Spray are not advocates of using the spray as a self-defense tool. An SC Johnson Spokesperson told us, “Household products should only ever be used in a manner consistent with the use instructions on the label. SC Johnson does not support or endorse the misuse of our products.”

On a legal basis, the Castle Doctrine says you don’t have to retreat in your home if you believe you’re in danger. You have a right to self-defense. That’s really a criminal matter.

But, with wasp spray, you also should consider potential civil lawsuits.

“If I could give you an example,” explained Joe Easter of Easter Law Firm. ”If you can imagine two boxers boxing each other and one is knocked out, well, what happens? The referee runs over there and jumps in because we don’t allow people to just keep pounding on someone or keep spraying after the threat has gone. So, the response must be reasonable in both the criminal context and the civil context, but yes, there can be a civil liability if the response isn’t reasonable.”

The Springfield Police Department told me it “has not considered the use of wasp spray and does not have any data regarding its use as a self-defense tool. For self-defense, an OC spray is what is recommended.”

Paige Rippee is the spokesperson for the Greene County Sheriff’s Office. She told us, “I could not suggest using wasp spray for self-defense. The pepper spray we carry can reach about 15 feet dependent on the wind/weather.”

And Joe Easter also mentioned it might be better to use pepper spray. Depending on what you buy, pepper sprays can shoot out just as far as a wasp spray.

Circling back to our viewer question, Could you be sued or held liable if you use wasp spray in self-defense? Yes. You could. As mentioned, it would depend on several factors. And, if it does go to court, you would ultimately see what 12 strangers decide.

To report a correction or typo, please email digitalnews@ky3.com