Common Law Remedy for Trespass

Transcript: Hi. I’m Indiana personal injury attorney David Holub. Not long ago we had someone call with a question about their legal options with regard to a neighbor who was spraying chemicals and caused some of those chemicals to come on to her property without her permission and kill plants on the caller’s property. The spray also sickened her pets.
In answering her question, I had to explain to her the law regarding “trespass”.
Most likely everyone’s heard the term “trespass” or encountered a sign that reads “trespassers will be prosecuted”.
Trespass is defined as knowingly entering another person’s property without permission.
A trespass can be both a civil wrong, something you sue someone about, and a criminal wrong, something a person might go to jail over.
But how does trespass fit with regard to chemicals coming onto someone’s property and doing damage?
In spraying the chemical, and letting the chemical go onto property not their own, the woman’s neighbor trespassed.
Trespass in simple terms is an interference with the right to possess, use and enjoy real estate.
The damages flowing from a trespass can be significant.
In a civil case the damages could include the value of trees and other vegetation that was destroyed, as well as the value of the diminishment of the real estate that can no longer be sold for a high price because the landscaping is missing.
There are many fact situations under the law where recovering damages for trespass can be useful.
For example, what if your neighboring property owner stores canisters filled with toxic chemicals on their property and those toxic chemicals leak out and come onto your property?
That’s trespass if the neighbor knows of the leak. Even if the chemicals leak underground that can be a trespass.
If the chemicals give off toxic fumes and those fumes come onto your property, that can be a trespass.
So, the cause of action for trespass can be useful if you’re suing someone for hazardous chemical leaks, or your suing a hazardous waste landfill because products from that landfill leaked out into the groundwater and contaminated your property.
So back to the caller and the question about chemicals sprayed by her neighbor killing her plants.
Knowingly spraying chemicals that can be expected to drift onto a neighbor’s property can be a trespass, or it might amount to ordinary negligence caused by a lack of reasonable care.
I hope you found this information helpful.
If you have questions about your legal rights if you get hurt due to the carelessness of another person, or as a result of substandard medical care, or due to a product defect, construction injury, or any other type of personal injury, please give us a call at (219) 736-9700.