Proposed Law Would Limit Liability For Property Owners

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The West Virginia Senate is scheduled to vote on a bill that would ensure that property owners face very limited liability from trespassers on their land.

In general, common law states that property owners cannot be sued by trespassers unless they recklessly or intentionally injure the trespasser.

The bill scheduled for a vote on Tuesday would lock that common law into written legislation.

A recent publication of the non-binding but influential American Law Institute dissolves some of the legal distinctions between trespassers and regular invitees. The institute advises that property owners are still protected against suit from "flagrant" trespassers, but other trespassers would have added legal standing.

The legislation would limit the traditional discretionary authority of judges to interpret common law practices on a case by case basis.