Property owners have a duty of care to maintain the safety of the premises for those who come onto the property. Can a burglar sue for personal injury? The short answer is yes, it is possible to sue for almost anything, though many claims will be dismissed as frivolous and may cost those attempting to litigate the issue for both their own court costs and the costs of those they intended to sue. However, there are some circumstances under which even burglars may be able to successfully sue for personal injury on your property.
A Duty of Care
The duty of care property owners have extends not only to store owners or other businesses but to homeowners as well. Homeowners must take reasonable measures to ensure the safety of those who come on their property. This includes ensuring sidewalks and driveways are free of ice during the winter and making sure trip hazards are addressed as needed.
This duty of care extends to those invited onto your property for a specific purpose. This can include a plumber who comes into your home to fix a leak, landscapers taking care of your yard, and contractors performing work in or around your home.
Licensees are people who have the consent of the homeowner to enter the home for their own purposes. This includes guests you may invite to your home for dinner, neighbors invited to a backyard cookout, and friends your children invite home after school. The homeowner has a duty to exercise reasonable care to ensure the licensee is protected from known dangers.
Trespassers, however, do not have a right to be on the homeowner’s property. In most cases, the homeowner has no obligation to protect the trespasser from dangers. This would include those invited to the home or licensees in the process of committing a crime in the home. For example, should an overnight guest attempt to steal your television in the night and injure themselves by dropping the television on their foot, the homeowner would not have a duty to protect from this danger.
There are some exceptions, however, in which the homeowner may be responsible for the safety of a trespasser. A homeowner cannot set up booby traps designed to injure trespassers. Any conduct designed to willfully injure trespassers is not excused, and the burglar may sue for personal injuries that result. Home Alone may succeed as a comedy, but the bandits would likely have grounds to sue for the injuries they sustained.
Homeowners do have the right to use deadly force to defend their lives in most states. However, you may never use deadly force to protect personal property. Unless you have reason to believe your life is in danger, any injuries or fatalities you cause a trespasser intentionally may result in a successful suit against you for injuries suffered by the trespasser.
While most suits for personal injury brought by a trespasser may be frivolous, it is always a good idea to consult a Bakersfield premises liability lawyer, should you ever find yourself in the position of being sued by a trespasser.