Do You Have a Duty to Protect Trespassers on Your Property?

Almost all issues related to premises liability law come to your duty of care (in other words, what responsibilities do you have to ensure that those who come on to your property will not be injured. You, of course, do not want anyone who comes on your property in Los Angeles to be hurt while there; at the same time, you rightly do not want just anyone coming on to your property.

While you likely have no problem ensuring the safety of those you invite as guests (or those who visit your property for legitimate reasons), you may wonder what sort of duty you have to those who are trespassing? 

It first may help to understand what your basic duty of care as a property owner is. Per Section 1001 of California’s Civil Jury Instructions, it states that you make use reasonable to identify and address any unsafe condition that could be a danger to others. In this context, addressing such an issue could include: 

  • Repairing a structure, surface or feature
  • Replacing all or part of a damaged structure, surface or feature
  • Providing adequate warning of the danger that a structure, surface or feature poses

This responsibility is yours regardless of whether you own, lease, occupy or control the property. 

Many states establish the duty of care you have to visitors based on their classifications. Guests are those you invite on your property, licensees are those who might come on to your property for business purposes, and trespassers are those who enter your property without permission.

California, however, does not base use such classifications when determining your liability (though it does take the reason for a person’s presence there into account). Thus, your general duty to all is to ensure they will not be hurt while on your property. 

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