Trespass to Land and Chattels
In this video, we'll first talk about trespass to land, which is fairly simple. Then, we'll talk about trespass to chattels and conversion of chattels, which are more complicated.
I. Trespass to Land
Trespass to land is the (1) intentional, (2) unlawful, (3) physical invasion of real property, (4) as to which the plaintiff is the rightful owner or is otherwise the person with rightful exclusive possession and control over the property (such as a lessee).
The "intent" element of trespass to land is a little different from what we've seen so far with respect to the other intentional torts. For the other intentional torts, the intent element has related primarily to the end result achieved by the defendant's actions. For example, for battery, one must intentionally do an act with the intent that it result in a harmful or offensive physical contact.
With trespass to land, though, the defendant can have the requisite intent even if he has every reason to believe that his physical invasion of the plaintiff's property is perfectly legal. The intent that matters is not the intent to invade someone else's property unlawfully so much as to perform some act that happens to result in such invasion.
For example, let's say that the defendant gets lost in the woods all night and stays lost until the following morning. All night long, the defendant reasonably believed he was on public forestland, where he had a legal right to be. However, at some point during the night, the defendant unwittingly crossed over onto private property belonging to the plaintiff. At that precise moment, the defendant trespassed on the plaintiff's land, even thought he didn't know it. The defendant's action of wandering through the woods was intentional, and it resulted in an unlawful invasion of the plaintiff's land, in that the plaintiff had not given consent for the defendant to be there, and the defendant had no other privilege to be there....