Jury Questions for Trespass Claim in Texas

                        
                            Real Estate Lawyer in San Antonio                         
                    

Why Study the Jury Charge?

Before taking a case to trial, or even filing a lawsuit, it is critically important to understand the specific questions that jurors will be asked to answer. The juror’s answers to the questions related to a specific claim or cause of action determine liability and damages. So, there is no better starting point than what will be the jury’s endpoint following trial — the Texas Pattern Jury Charge questions,

A prudent litigant or attorney pursuing a claim for civil trespass in Texas should carefully consider these questions to best prepare the evidence and trial testimony.  Understanding the jury questions is also key to drafting pleadings and preparing discovery questions and responses.

What is Civil Trespass?

“Trespass” means an entry on the property of another without having consent of the owner.

In a civil trespass action, unauthorized entry on the property of another without having consent of the property owner constitutes trespass. Trespass can also occur by causing or permitting a thing to cross the property boundary of another without that owner’s consent.

Elements of Civil Trespass in Texas. 

The three elements of a trespass action are:

(1) entry;

(2) onto the property of another; and

(3) without the property owner’s consent or authorization.

Environmental Processing Systems, L.C. v. FPL Farming Ltd., 457 S.W.3d 414, 419 (Tex. 2015). The burden is on the plaintiff to prove lack of consent. Id.

Intent to Trespass not Required.

Trespass can be negligent or intentional.

For a Negligent Trespass claim, the plaintiff need only prove interference with the right of possession of real property; the only relevant intent is that of the trespasser to enter the property. Trinity Universal Insurance Co. v. Cowan, 945 S.W.2d 819, 827 (Tex. 1997).  The trespasser’s subjective intent or awareness of the property’s ownership is irrelevant. Trinity Universal Insurance Co., 945 S.W.2d at 819.  This means that a person can be liable for trespass even if he did not intend to trespass or enter the property of another.

Proving Intentional Trespass requires a different showing.  Those “who knowingly and intentionally trespass, or who do so maliciously, may be liable for additional forms of damages” not available for a negligent or unintentional trespass.  See Coinmach Corp. v. Aspenwood Apartment Corp., 417 S.W.3d 909, 922 (Tex. 2013).

General Jury Question for Trespass Liability

In determining whether a person (usually the Defendant) is liable for Non-Intentional civil trespass in Texas, a jury will be asked to answer the following question:

QUESTION ______

Did Don Davis trespass on Paul Payne’s property?

“Trespass” means an entry on the property of another without having consent or authorization of the owner. To constitute trespass, entry upon another’s property need not be in person, but may be made by causing or permitting a thing to cross the boundary of the property.

Answer “Yes” or “No.”

Answer: _______________

In cases involving allegations of intentional trespass, jurors will be asked to answer the following question:

Intentional Trespass—Question and Instruction

QUESTION ______

Was Don Davis’s trespass intentional?

“Intentional” means that Don Davis acted with intent with respect to the nature of his conduct or to a result of his conduct when it was the conscious objective or desire to engage in the conduct or the result.

Answer “Yes” or “No.”

Answer: _______________

Damages for Trespass Claim 

The measure of damages for a trespass claim can vary widely.

The availability of certain classes of damages turns not only on whether the trespass was intentional or not, but also on whether the injury is permanent or temporary.  We will study the available damages for a trespass action in another post to this blog.