Current limits on an injured trespasser’s ability to sue should be set in statute and shouldn’t change.
That’s what Rep. Dan Fabian (R-Roseau) declared about a bill he sponsors. HF985 is common-sense property-rights legislation of a kind enacted in 26 states meant to “preempt the courts from imposing or adopting” broader rights for trespassers, he said.
Passed, as amended, 85-46 Thursday, the bill now moves to the Senate, where Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove) is the sponsor.including one offered by Rep. John Lesch (DFL-St. Paul) that would exempt children from the bill’s provisions on trespassers.
A second Lesch amendment, defining the term “trespasser,” was adopted as amended by Fabian to include in the definition a person who “has unlawfully or wrongfully entered the land through their physical presence or through the physical presence of another tangible object or substance which interferes with the owner's right of exclusive possession."
The words “tangible object or substance” prompted Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn(DFL-Roseville) to questions whether that would apply to, for instance, overdrift of sprayed pesticides or feedlot runoff.
“This isn’t the first time people thought it was a good idea to freeze common law,” Lesch said. “I don’t think it’s well thought out.”
Limits on when a trespasser can sue already exist in common law, as well as state statute. The bill states: “An owner of real property owes no duty of care to a trespasser except in those circumstances where a common law or statutory right of action existed as of the effective date of this section.”
Current law allows persons pursuing outdoor recreation to go onto private land they don’t own if they have an owner’s permission. But another law says such an owner doesn’t have a duty to maintain the land or warn about dangers there.
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