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Trespassers live in your vacation cabin, to the point of having

the PGandE turned on. A...
Trespassers live in your vacation cabin, to the point of having the PGandE turned on. A fire is started on said property, and the neighbors have some damage to their property from the fire. What is the liability for the owner?
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Answered in 2 minutes by:
7/18/2013
Chris T., JD
Chris T., JD, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 4,829
Experience: Experienced in both state and federal court.
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TexLawyer :

Good morning. I'll be assisting you with your question.

TexLawyer :

When did you become aware the trespassers were living at the cabin?

Customer:

Its actually my mothers case. She had been notified by the neighbors of the trespassers and called the police to have them removed. But they had been living in the house for awhile. She was notified of the fire within this past week by the neighbor. She was given a report by a neighbor who said his property was damaged. She has called to request a report from the fire department and the person who was taking her request has the same last name as the person who said his property was damaged. And also her address is around the corner from the property. It would be easier if you spoke directly to my mother since she is the one involved. I gave her number. She just wants to know about the liability on her. Otherwise I will get the info. The fire is under investigation.

TexLawyer :

Just so you know, experts on Just Answer are not allowed to communicate with customers outside of this forum, so I won't be able to speak to her on the telephone. However, if she's able, she can participate in this question and answer.

TexLawyer :

As far as her liability, based on what you've told me, she likely has none.

TexLawyer :

They would be seeking to make your mother vicariously liable for the actions of a third party, simply because they were on her property, in this case, importantly, as trespassers.

TexLawyer :

First off, it is important that she did not allow them to stay and took steps to have them removed once she found out they were there. Based on what you've said, she never granted them permission to stay, either express or implied.

TexLawyer :

In fact, she called the police.

TexLawyer :

So, at that point, they are trespassers, and they are commiting a crime. Under basic vicarious liability law, a person's liability for someone else is essentially cut off when the other person has committed a criminal act.

TexLawyer :

So, the proper party to sue in this case would be the people on the property, not your mother. I'm not sure if her homeowners insurance would cover them (I seriously doubt it, but I've never looked into that specific issue), but it was their negligent act that caused the damage, not your mother's.

Customer:

Thank you. Is there a particular place that I can look this up at?

TexLawyer :

Moreover, your mother has a legitimate lawsuit against the trespassers, as well.

TexLawyer :

Much of this is driven by court opinions, so there isn't a way to point you to a specific statute. Also, this is what's known as "common law," that is, commonly understood legal principles.

Customer:

Ok thanks.

TexLawyer :

Glad to help!

Chris T., JD
Chris T., JD, Attorney
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Satisfied Customers: 4,829
Experience: Experienced in both state and federal court.
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