When someone suffers an injury on your property in Connecticut, you may be liable for a personal injury claim under premises liability law. However, liability depends on a few factors — primarily upon the right of the person to be on your property.
Connecticut law distinguishes between trespassers, invitees and licensees, asserting that you owe a duty of care to invitees and licensees, but not to trespassers except in a few cases.
What is a trespasser?
Under state law, trespassing offenses range from infractions to class A misdemeanors. Simple trespass, an infraction, consists of knowingly entering premises without the right to be present. Trespass becomes a crime when the person does so with the intent to hunt, fish or trap on the property, or if the property has clear and obvious posting prohibiting trespassing. Trespassing at this level is third-degree criminal trespass and a class C misdemeanor under Connecticut law.
Unlawfully entering a building or structure is second-degree criminal trespass. This is a class B misdemeanor. The most serious trespassing offense is first-degree criminal trespass, a class A misdemeanor. This consists of trespassing in violation of a restraining order or after receiving express orders to leave from the property owner or representative.
Criminal trespassers are subject to prosecution under the law, and the more severe the trespass, the less likely a court may be to hold you liable for their injury.
What duty of care do I owe a trespasser?
Connecticut law generally does not hold property owners liable for the injuries of trespassers as their presence is theoretically not anticipated. You do not owe a duty of care to the trespasser to keep the premises safe or to warn him or her of dangerous conditions.
However, this only applies to adult trespassers, and the doctrine of attractive nuisance is an important exception to this rule. Property owners may owe a duty of care to children who enter their property.
Additionally, these liability protections only apply as long as the intruder’s presence remains unknown to the owner. Once you discover a trespasser, you owe a duty of care under state law to take reasonable measures to prevent injury, and you may not intentionally harm or leave traps for the trespasser.
These laws coexist with laws allowing physical force against trespassers in some circumstances, such as when there is a threat of physical harm or destruction of property.
It is generally a good idea to clearly and explicitly ask trespassers to leave if you discover them, but try to prevent them from suffering an injury while they are there. It is a better idea in most cases to pursue recourse through law enforcement or the courts whenever possible rather than taking things into your own hands.