Landowner Liability: Duty to Trespassers

May 19, 2021

An individual who enters onto the property of another without permission is classified as a Trespasser under Texas law.  Landowners owe the least duty of care to trespassers under landowner liability law, and essentially must simply refrain from intentionally causing them harm.  However, trespassers are protected from “grossly negligent” acts or omissions by the landowner.

Texas defines “gross negligence as: an act or omission which when viewed objectively from the standpoint of the actor at the time of its occurrence involves an extreme degree of risk, considering the probability and magnitude of the potential harm to others; and of which the actor has actual subjective awareness of the risk involved, but nevertheless proceeds with conscious indifference to the rights, safety, or welfare of others..

Essentially, the landowner must know of a very dangerous condition on their property or create a dangerous condition on their property without caring whatsoever about the degree of harm that that condition was likely to cause.

Bluebonnet season in Texas usually means individuals crossing onto fields or roadsides where they may be trespassing in order to take pictures. Know your rights as a landowner if these sightseers are injured while doing so.

Bluebonnet season in Texas usually means individuals crossing onto fields or roadsides where they may be trespassing in order to take pictures. Know your rights as a landowner if these sightseers are injured while doing so.

So assuming you have trespassers on your property for any number of reasons- illegal hunting and fishing, arrowhead hunting, or just sightseers (trespassers), if they were to twist an ankle while walking or cut themselves leaning up against existing fences, the landowner is unlikely to be liable for these injuries.

On the other hand, a landowner who, knowing that there may be trespassers on their property, decides to cause a cattle stampede through their property where the trespassers may be, there may be a case for potential liability for injuries.  Similarly, a landowner who keeps an aggressive bull in a pasture or corral with fence the landowner knows to be inadequate to keep the animal in, injuries caused by the escaping animal could lead to liability.

The Law Office of Nathaniel Gilbert regularly consults with landowners regarding liability issues, their protections under certain Texas Statutes, as well as the crafting of custom tailored liability waivers for activities such as hunting leases.

Business Law + Farm and Agricultural Law + Hunting Law + Real Estate ARTICLES BY TEXAS BUSINESS ATTORNEY NATHANIEL GILBERT
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Nathaniel Gilbert is the sole attorney at The Law Office of Nathaniel Gilbert, PLLC. Practicing in the areas of Real Estate and Business, Nate serves the states of Texas, Colorado, and Kansas. He can be reached at 726-999-0087.