SW Legal Educational Publishing

Trespasser Has No Cause of Action for Injuries Suffered When Stealing Property
Description Plaintiff was severely burned when attempting to steal copper from an electric panel. His suit against property owners for not taking more precautions to protect trespassers dismissed by Connecticut high court, which found that the property owners were not on notice about trespassers for this purpose.
Topic Torts
Key Words Trespass, Duty to Trespassers
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Maffucci broke into an electrical switchgear cabinet to steal copper. He was severely injured when he came into contact with a live electrical circuit inside the cabinet. He sued the property owner and the electric company for negligence because the building had been abandoned and the lock on the eight-foot high, barbed-wire fence around the electrical cabinets had been cut off, although danger signs remained, and plaintiff had seen other persons looting the empty building. Trial court dismissed the suit, finding that property owner did not know the electrical cabinet had been opened. Appeals court reversed, holding it was a matter of fact whether property owner knew about the presence of trespassers. Property owners appealed.
Court of Appeals Decision Reversed, suit dismissed. "A possessor of land is under no duty to keep his or her land reasonably safe for an adult trespasser." However, if the owner knows that trespassers are to be expected then there is a "correlative duty of taking such precautions against injuring trespassers as a reasonable foresight of harm ought to suggest." The electric company conducted monthly inspections; the property owner testified that he did not know the electrical area had been invaded. The only testimony to the contrary was that of the plaintiff, who said he saw other trespassers. That was not enough to state a cause of action.
Citation Maffucci v. Royal Park Limited Partnership, 243 Conn. 552 (Sup. Ct., Conn., 1998)

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