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Lawmakers discuss trespasser liability

By: Jack Zemlicka, [email protected]//October 21, 2011//

Lawmakers discuss trespasser liability

By: Jack Zemlicka, [email protected]//October 21, 2011//

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Wisconsin legislators discussed a bill Friday that would insulate private property owners from liability if a trespasser is injured on the premises.

Special Session Assembly Bill 22 proposes limits on the civil liability of private property owners to trespassers.

Under the bill, a private property owner, including tenants or other occupants, does not need to provide care to a trespasser on his or her property and may not be found liable for an act or omission relating to a condition on his or her property that causes injury or death to a trespasser, except under certain circumstances.

Criminal defense lawyer Martin Kohler said this appears to be a “common sense” law in that trespassers wouldn’t be able to sue owners if they are on their property illegally and get hurt.

However, he suggested that extreme circumstance may warrant an exception.

“If someone walks up to a house by accident,” he said, “and the porch falls in, maybe they should be able to sue even though, technically, that person was trespassing.”

The bill also would make private property owners liable for injuries they intentionally cause to a trespasser, unless the owner was acting in self-defense or in defense of another person.

Kohler, of Kohler & Hart SC, said in his experience it is difficult for a trespasser shot or injured on private property by the owner, to successfully sue.

“I’ve had a number of cases representing an owner where they shot a burglar and then the burglar turned around and sued,” Kohler said. “The owner has won every time.”

The legislation was introduced on Tuesday and the Assembly Committee on Judiciary and Ethics held a public hearing on the bill Friday.


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