The Tort of Trespass to Land
In New York, trespassing on other people’s land is a tort. The tort of trespass to land protects people’s right to exclude others from their property. Your right to exclude others from your property is one of the most important rights you have as a property owner.
IF YOUR PROPERTY WAS DAMAGED BY A TRESPASSER, OR YOU WERE SUED FOR TRESPASS TO LAND, CALL THE AGGRESSIVE NEW YORK TORT LITIGATION LAWYERS AT TILEM & ASSOCIATES, PC. FOR A FREE CONSULTATION 877-377-8666.
If people are trespassing on your land and they damage it, it is important that you sue to prevent further damage and get compensated for the damage already done. On the other hand, if you have been sued for trespass to land, it is important that you hire an attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights. The experienced and aggressive New York tort litigation attorneys at Tilem & Associates, PC. can prosecute or defend your trespass to land case.
In a trespass to land case, the plaintiff must prove the following elements:
- Recklessness or intent,
- A person or thing entered the land,
- That another person actually or constructively possessed,
In a trespass to land case, the plaintiff must prove the defendant intended to do the act that caused the defendant to enter the plaintiff’s property. A defendant’s argument, that they did not intend to enter a plaintiff’s property is not a defense. People and businesses can be held liable for trespass to land, even if they enter by accident. For example, suppose a mining company planned to mine granite on Blackacre. The mining company, accidentally, used an old tax map to determine where Blackacre’s property boundaries were. Blackacre’s boundaries with Whiteacre, a neighboring property, have changed over the years. Blackacre sold a portion of land to Whiteacre after the tax map was published. The mining company wanted to dig on this portion. The mining company mistakenly started mining operations on Whiteacre’s property, believing it was part of Blackacre. The mining company removed granite from Whiteacre and seriously damaged the land. Whiteacre’s owner sued the mining company for trespass to land. The mining company’s lawyer argues that the mining company made a mistake and did not intentionally trespass onto Whiteacre. The judge will rule against the mining company because the mining company intended to mine granite on property that was inside Whiteacre’s boundaries.
On the other hand, suppose that Danny, while driving to his girlfriend’s house, swerved to avoid a deer in the road. Danny tried to keep the car on the road but, the car veered out of control and stopped on Paula’s lawn. Paula sued Danny for trespass to land. Danny’s lawyer argues that Danny did not intentionally trespass on Paula’s lawn. The judge will rule in Danny’s favor. Danny did not intend to cause his car to stop on Paula’s lawn. Danny intended to stay on the road. Therefore, Danny did not have the intent required to commit trespass to land.
The plaintiff must also prove that a person or thing entered their land. The types of actionable entries include, but are not limited to:
- The defendant throwing objects onto the plaintiff’s land,
- Wrongful evictions,
- The defendant shining bright lights on the plaintiff’s land,
- Moving a cottage to obstruct the plaintiff’s view,
- The defendant causing other people to enter the plaintiff’s land,
Finally, the plaintiff must have had exclusive, legal possession of the land when the trespass happened. Property owners who sell their property to others lose their right to enter that property. If the former property owner does re-enter, they may be liable for trespass to land. For example, consider two business partners, Preet and Diana who owned an office building together. After arguing over business strategy, Diana decides to sell her half of the office building to Preet. Preet tells Diana that she is not welcome at the office building anymore and takes her keys. Later that week, Diana picks the locks and enters the office building. Diana justifies her actions by telling herself, “last week I owned half of the office building, it should not be a problem for me to take a few things and keep my office.” She takes artwork and changes the locks to her old office, even though she does not own any portion of the building. Diana is liable for trespass to land.
Compensatory and punitive damages are available for trespass to land. Compensatory damages are limited to the consequences of the defendant’s trespass. However, when a defendant is wanton, malicious, or has reckless disregard for the plaintiff’s rights, a plaintiff can recover punitive damages. Since punitive damages are possible, trespass to land cases can have very high stakes. The New York tort litigation attorneys at Tilem & Associates, PC. are experienced in trespass to land matters and will aggressively fight to win your case.
IF SOMEONE HAS SUED YOU OR YOUR BUSINESS FOR TRESPASSING ON THEIR PROPERTY, OR SOMEONE IS TRESPASSING ON YOUR PROPERTY, CALL THE EXPERIENCED AND KNOWLEDGEABLE TORT LITIGATION ATTORNEYS AT TILEM & ASSOCIATES, P.C. TODAY. 877-377-8666. FREE CONSULTATION.