You Cannot Dig a Trench in your Yard to Stop Trespassers

Question: Neighborhood kids are constantly running across my back yard as a short cut to the street behind me. I have told them to stop, but they won’t. Can I dig a trench to stop them?

Answer:

No, you cannot. Your responsibility towards other people depends upon your relationship to that other person. The law has defined several relationships, to-wit: invitee (business visitor), social guest, licensee, and trespasser. Since your question deals with a trespasser, we shall begin with that category. A trespasser is a person who enters the property of another, without permission, for a purpose of convenience of his own, or for no apparent purpose. You, as the owner, owe no duty of care to that trespasser except that you cannot cause injury to the trespasser by willful or wanton misconduct. By digging a trench, you would be engaging in willful and/or wanton misconduct with the intention of causing harm to that trespasser and you would be liable for the injuries that the trespasser would sustain. We would suggest that you plant rose bushes or some other prickly bush that would discourage them from running through.

For your information, an invitee (business visitor) is a person who rightfully enters the property at the express or implied invitation of the owner/occupant for a purpose beneficial to the owner/occupant. The duty to an invitee is to use ordinary care to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition and to provide notice of any concealed dangers of which the owner/occupant has knowledge or should have discovered.

A social guest is a person who enters property by invitation to enjoy hospitality of the host. A social guest assumes the ordinary risks of the property. The host has a duty only to exercise ordinary care not to cause injury to the guest.

A licensee is a person who enters another’s property for his own pleasure, convenience or benefit with the permission of the owner/occupant. The duty of the owner/occupant is similar to that towards a trespasser to not cause injury by willful or wanton misconduct or to warn the licensee of hidden dangers that exist.

As an owner/occupant of property, you must act in accordance with the above general principles. If you have been on someone else’s property and were injured, you may wish to consult with an attorney to determine whether or not the owner acted in accordance with the above principles.

It is always best to discuss your concerns with an attorney. Contact our office for further information, a free consultation, or representation, and we will be glad to give you our personal attention, or your may visit our website atsternbergandzeid.com or e-mail us at sternbergzeid@ameritech.net .

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