Legal Article - Business Law

Tort of Trespass: Accidental Damage to Customer Property

In common usage we usually think of trespass as unauthorised entry onto property.

The reason for this is that landowners wishing to keep people off their property often erect signs warning off potential trespassers.

You may see the sign which says “Trespassers will be prosecuted.” This is known as the wooden lie. Trespassing is a civil wrong and therefore a person trespassing can be sued but not prosecuted as prosecution relates to a criminal wrong.

However the tort of trespass does not just apply to land but also to people and goods. It is basically an unlawful interference with goods.

If you stab someone, apart from hearing the sound of Police sirens for the criminal aspects, you could also be sued under the tort of trespass to the person and a civil claim for damages would arise.

If without authority you break into someone’s car, carry out a repair, or damage it in some way then that amounts to trespass of the owner’s goods.

The claim will normally amount to the level of damage. Walking across someone’s field may not amount to much unless you are ruining crops. Wounding someone will obviously give rise to a varying claim depending on what part of the anatomy is disabled and what affect that has on normal daily life.

If goods are damaged e.g. a car then the claim would be the cost of repair, but the Claimant must always mitigate their claim. So, if you do damage a car while doing work on it, and yes it can happen from time to time, always offer in writing to repair it (obviously only if it is your fault).
The customer may be a bit upset that it has happened but in order to mitigate the claim your quotation of zero cost will always beat any alternative.

Unless you have been totally reckless and the customer has lost all confidence, then the Court should support your actions.

Published: 08 Mar 2011

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