Do Premises Liability Laws Apply to Trespassers?
Premises liability laws can be difficult to interpret, especially as they apply to trespassers. Property owners must be mindful of any hazards in their home or business, especially if they invite friends, service professionals, customers, or other visitors to their property. Ensuring the safety of these types of guests makes perfect sense, but under some circumstances, property owners might also need to protect potential trespassers from harm.
What Is a Trespasser?
Legally speaking, a trespasser is any individual who enters someone else’s property without invitation. Some people, like a partial owner of that property, or a police officer with a proper permit, might be able to enter someone else’s property because they have the proper license or right, but someone who enters purely for their own purposes could be considered a trespasser.
The Mississippi Supreme Court defines a trespasser as an individual who enters a property, “merely for his own purposes, pleasure, or convenience, or out of curiosity, and without any enticement, allurement, inducement or express or implied assurance of safety from the owner or person in charge.”
Are Trespassers Protected?
Prior to 2016, homeowners, business owners, and other types of property owners and managers could be held liable for any injuries that resulted from passive negligence on their property. In other words, if there was a danger on their property and they failed to have it fixed, their passive negligence could render them liable for any resulting damages, including those inflicted on trespassers.
Recently a bill signed by Governor Bryant granted property owners more leniency in this area. As the current law stands, property owners only owe “common law duty” to trespassers. In other words, a property owner is only legally required to refrain from willfully harming a trespasser, they are not required to prevent them from harm.
Understanding How These Laws Affect You
It’s important to remember that some parties may be exempt from this rule. Children, for example, may be loosely categorized as trespassers, though they can still be legally protected from other types of harm. In most cases, property owners are still required to prevent children from harming themselves on their property, whether they enter that property with an invitation or not.
Also, some individuals might waffle between the title “trespasser” and “licensee” or “invitee.” These identities are clearly defined, but they aren’t always black and white in trickier circumstances. What if you entered private property accidentally, or what if the property wasn’t clearly marked?
To navigate these legal complexities, the best thing you can do is discuss your case with our attorney to determine your rights and options after a serious premises liability injury. If someone else’s negligence led to your injury, or the injury of your child, our firm is prepared to use our legal experience to fight for your rights.