If someone enters a property without permission, can they file a lawsuit
if they are hurt? The answer, surprisingly, is yes.
A trespasser is someone who enters a property illegally. Even though they
have no right to be there, they still have a reasonable expectation of
safety. In theory, a trespasser who accidentally hurt themselves on an
exposed hazard could sue the owner for negligence. Though possible, this
scenario is unlikely and uncommon.
Trespassers cannot be intentionally harmed by unseen traps. Legally, trespassers
are protected from hazards left on a property. Landowners have every right
to set up defenses against invaders, but they must provide clear warnings
of these defenses. For example, a landowner with bear traps in the yard
needs a “Caution Beartraps” or similar signage. Without these
warnings, the owner could be held liable for the trespasser’s injuries.
Another way trespassers could sue for their injuries is through the “attractive
nuisance” doctrine. This legal precedent is designed to protect
children. Landowners must be aware of what is exposed on their property
and what may attract children. For example, young kids can see an empty
refrigerator and want to play inside.
The philosophy behind this law is that young children don’t have
the capacity to recognize the dangers of certain items. They may see something
and be drawn to it, not considering the potential consequences of their
actions. Argued well, attractive nuisance can be used for older kids or
even teens. A reasonable case could be made that even though the older
kids know they shouldn’t be on the property, the dangerous item
was too alluring to ignore.
There are no hard-and-fast rules for what is or isn’t an attractive
nuisance. The courts will determine what is a commonsense attraction.
Essentially, property owners need to look over their land and ask, “Is
there anything here that a kid may want to play with?” They should
think like a child. If they have a swimming pool, abandoned car, construction
machines, a trampoline, etc., they could have an attractive nuisance.
If an attractive nuisance is present, the owner needs to remove that item
or bar it from the public. They should install fences or barriers. The
best defense against an attractive nuisance is a high fence or a wooden
one where outsiders cannot see what’s in the yard. Fencing and barriers
need to be secure. If there is a hole in the fence, or if it can be easily
surmounted, the property owner could still be held liable when a child
is hurt on their property.
If you’ve been hurt on someone else’s property, reach out to
our office. It is possible to review your case and determine that the
owner’s negligence resulted in your injuries. You can call us at
(817) 591-4222 or
contact us online.