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What Kind of Intent, and Harm, Is Required For Trespass?

A TRESPASS REQUIRES ONLY INTENT TO ENTER THE LAND WHERE THE TRESPASS OCCURRED.

Like a number of other torts, the level of “intent” required to prove a trespass claim is very low. The defendant (trespasser) only needs to have an intent to go to, or be at, the place where the trespass occurred.

A trespass claim does not require proof that the trespasser:

1. Caused any harm.

2. Intended to commit a trespass.

3. Entered the land with any kind of malicious intent.

Rather, the only question is “did the trespasser intend to go to this place, or to enter this land, or to make an object enter the land?”

If the answer is yes, the requisite level of intent is almost always met – even if the defendant did not realize (s)he was committing a trespass. Liability can be found where the trespasser was behaving recklessly or negligently, rather than intentionally – and can also be found where the trespass resulted from “ultrahazardous” activities, like hunting or the use of explosives.

THE DEFENDANT’S TRESPASS MUST CAUSE HARM, BUT THE HARM NEED NOT BE INTENTIONAL.

Where the defendant’s entry onto land was intentional, it doesn’t matter whether or not the defendant also intended to cause harm – although harm is an element of trespass claims. However, the defendant’s conduct must be “a substantial factor” in causing the harm that the plaintiff suffered.

Note that the act of physical intrusion onto land, even without significant damages or harm, is generally enough to support a trespass claim. Where the defendant did not cause measurable damages, the plaintiff’s recovery is generally (but not always) limited to a declaratory judgment, injunction, and/or nominal damages.

If someone has trespassed on your land, or accused you of trespass, contact an experienced lawyer immediately to discuss your rights, possible defenses, and potential claims. Do not delay.

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Disclaimer: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE AUTHOR, ROSS LAW, OR THIS WEBSITE AND ANY PERSON. Your rights and experiences may vary. Never use an online article (including this one) to evaluate your legal claims. Speak with an experienced lawyer promptly to obtain a personalized evaluation of your claims, possible damages, and options. You may lose or compromise your rights if you delay in consulting legal counsel. Trespass claims are complicated and fact-dependent. If you believe you have a trespass claim, have had a trespass claim asserted against you, or are involved in any other type of legal claim or matter, consult an experienced lawyer immediately for an evaluation of your possible rights and claims.

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