Common law of trespass : LUSENET : 6805-team-6 : One Thread

In response to requests for a review of common law on trespass, here is a quick summary of trespass on land. Note that there are a few other related actions, such as trespass on chattels, nuisance, and continuing trespass, which I will cover in my presentation and in my section of the white paper. If you have any questions, call or email me.

Under traditional common law, there were two types of trespass actions: trespass, and trespass on the case. Trespass involved direct damage; trespass on the case involved indirect damage. For example, if a log was thrown onto a road, a person walking by who was struck by the log would have an action for trespass. A person walking by who tripped over the log would have an action for trespass on the case.

Under modern common law, trespass is defined as (1) an invasion (2) which interferes with the right of exclusive possession of the land, and (3) which is a direct result of some act committed by the defendant. No harm or damage is needed, and no "fault" is needed, either. The defendant is liable unless s/he did not act voluntarily (e.g., if s/he was carried onto plaintiff's land by others, against his or her will). Unlike traditional common law, which looked at the directness/indirectness, modern common law looks completely at plaintiff's intent.

The required intent is not necessarily a hostile intent, or even a desire to do any harm. Rather, it is merely an intent to be at the place where the trespass allegedly occurred. It doesn't matter whether the plaintiff intended the specific harm that occurred or not.

-- Anonymous, October 15, 1998

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