January 1, 2015

Here in Bucks County, we enjoy some of the longest deer hunting seasons throughout the Commonwealth. In fact, we are one of only six Pennsylvania counties that allow extended regular firearms season for antlerless deer for Dec. 26 through Jan. 24.

Trapping for furbearing animals such as bobcats, raccoons and foxes is also available throughout Pennsylvania. In fact, some animals such as coyotes, opossums and skunks can be taken at almost any time of the year.

This can sometimes pose premises liability problems for some Pennsylvania landowners. Currently, landowners are required to exercise ordinary care to ensure that their property does not cause unnecessary harm to people who are authorized to come onto their property. However, that same standard of care is not required of the landowner for individuals who trespass onto their property without consent. Basically, a landowner needs only to refrain from engaging in willful, wanton or reckless conduct that might cause some injury to a trespasser.

Premises liability problems can arise for Pennsylvania landowners who tolerate trespassers to some extent. In other words, landowners might incur increased liability if they discover that trespassers have been coming onto their properties, yet they fail to remove certain hazards. This is especially if the landowner is aware that this has been happening for quite some time. This can be particularly tricky for trespassers who are children.

Pennsylvania recognizes the concept of “attractive nuisance doctrine“. In a nutshell, this doctrine holds a landowner to a higher standard of duty for items on his or her property which might be extremely attractive to kids. For example, this might include an old rusted swing set or an abandoned swimming pool with no fencing around it. A court may find that a landowner might have foreseen that children may wander onto his or her property without consent in order to access those features.

If you are a Pennsylvania landowner concerned about premises liability, there are a few things you should know. You have a right to exclude unauthorized persons from entering your property. You also have a duty to exercise minimal care towards most trespassers. Your Pennsylvania premises liability attorney can assist you with evaluating the particular circumstances of your property in helping you to avoid incurring premises liability.

Source: Penn State University of Law, “Landowner’s Liability for Land Users and Statutory Protection for Landowners” Gregory R. Riley, Jan. 01, 2015