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Who is a trespasser for premises liability purposes?

Under Louisiana law, property owners owe certain individuals a duty to keep their premises free from dangerous conditions. A store, for example, owes its invitees (its customers) a duty to keep floors reasonably dry and parking lots reasonably free from ice. If these owners fail to do so, then they could be held liable for any damages suffered by a victim who is harmed by the hazardous condition. There are, of course, exceptions to this general rule.

One of the biggest exceptions is that property owners do not owe a duty to trespassers. Generally speaking, trespassing occurs when an individual intentionally enters onto the land of another without consent. However, to prove trespass a landowner must prove that the accused individual knowingly entered the property of another. Showing that the individual wandered onto the property may not be enough, as the individual in question must have known that the land was the property of another before he or she can be deemed a trespasser.

Also, a property owner may claim that an individual injured on his property was a trespasser as a way to protect himself, even when that wasn't the case. To prove that he was not a trespasser, a victim may need to show that he had either expressed consent, by showing written or verbal permission, or implied consent, such as when a property owner knows an individual often goes onto his property without consent and has never stopped it.

Although this may seem like a relatively minor issue, it can be huge for those who have been injured while on the property of another. Those who have been hurt in these instances should consider filing a premises liability lawsuit, as they may be entitled to compensation. When it is alleged that the claim has no merit because they were trespassing at the time of the incident, victims may need to turn to the law to craft strong and compelling arguments that support their position.

Source: FindLaw, "Trespassing Basics," accessed on April 29 2017

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