If you are on someone else’s property without their permission and you are injured, do you have any rights to seek compensation for your injuries? In many cases, you may be rather out of luck, as a property owner has relatively few responsibilities for keeping adult trespassers safe—children may be a different story. Depending on the circumstances, however, you may have some hope of holding the property owner liable for your damages. A ruling in federal court in Connecticut recently addressed this question and allowed a lawsuit to continue on behalf of an injured trespasser.
In March 2011, a 26-year-old man climbed an electrical tower on property owned by a commuter railway company. It is unclear how high he had climbed, but while well above the ground, the man was hit by an arc electric shock from one of the surrounding high-voltage wires. He subsequently fell from the tower and was caught by a network of live wires beneath him while electricity continued to surge through his body. Witnesses say they saw the man “hanging with his leg in flames from the tower,” before rescue workers could extract him nearly 45 minutes later. Somehow, the man survived but suffered burns over most of his body, and both of his legs had to be amputated.
Through his representatives—he was left intellectually disabled following the incident—the man filed a lawsuit against the railroad company that owned the property. The suit alleged negligence but also accused the company of willful, wanton, and reckless misconduct related to the condition and dangers of the catenary tower. The man’s claim stated that there is a well-used dirt bike track near the tower and that the tower—and others nearby—are tagged with graffiti. According to the plaintiff’s suit these facts, along with the admitted lack of “no trespassing” signs, mean that the railway company was aware that people are regularly on the property uninvited, which creates a duty of care on behalf of the property owner.
Negligence Claim May Proceed
While the railway company acknowledged that at least seven non-employees have been shocked by such towers in Connecticut and that the average person is probably unaware of the possibility of arc dangers, the judge overseeing the case issued a summary judgment shutting down the wanton, willful, and reckless portion of the claim. The judge, however, allowed the negligence claim to proceed. His ruling said that there is sufficient evidence that a reasonable jury could find that the railway company knew about regular trespassing near its towers but did not take action to warn people of the potential dangers.
Trespassers in Connecticut
It is important to understand that the term “trespasser,” in this context, does not necessarily mean someone who would be charged with the criminal offense of trespassing. Instead, it refers to a person who is on another person’s property without an invitation or permission. Under Connecticut law, a property owner does not have an obligation to keep his or her property safe for trespassers unless the owner is aware of the trespasser’s presence. Once the trespasser’s presence is known, however, the owner then has a duty of care. Despite the above case being heard in federal court, it is reliant on the idea that the railway company knew trespassers were present on its property and was, therefore, responsible for their safety.
Call an Attorney for Help
If you have been injured on property belonging to another person—regardless of whether you were allowed to be there—you may have options for collecting compensation. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney in Connecticut and get the guidance you need. Call [[phone1]] for a free consultation at Woolf Law Firm, LLC today.