Trespass – Civil Liability

texas civil trespassA car jumped a roadway, curb, and sidewalk and ran into a tree, shrubs, and a brick wall owned by the plaintiff. There were erratic tire marks back on the roadway and curb. The driver was found unconscious behind the wheel. Turns out he had a heart attack and died. So the plaintiff sued his estate.

In earlier post, we discussed criminal trespass. One may also maintain a civil claim for trespass on realty.

A plaintiff proves civil trespass if the s/he owned or had a lawful right to possess property; the defendant entered that land; the entry was physical, voluntary, and intentional; and the trespass caused some injury to the plaintiff’s right of possession.

The trial judge ruled that the plaintiff should win the case as a matter of law without any need for the jury to consider the issue of the driver’s consciousness before the incident. The driver’s estate appealed. The appellate court returned the case to the trial court for another trial. The appellate court stated, “If [the driver] was unconscious or dead prior to leaving the roadway and entering upon [plaintiff’s] property, his act of entering [plaintiff’s] property could not have been voluntary.” In such an event, the plaintiff couldn’t win a civil trespass claim.

What if the driver was rendered unconscious before the accident due to intoxication?

In our Just for Fun posts, we underscore certain construction and real estate topics just for the fun of it.

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