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The JMK bLAWg

Court of Appeals Brings Clarity to Intentional Trespass Claims

Court of Appeals Brings Clarity to Intentional Trespass Claims

The appropriate statute of limitations governing claims of intentional trespass has confounded property owners and their attorneys for decades. Many lawyers believed that the 6-year statute of limitations provided in Wis. Stat. §893.52 for injury to real or personal property controlled claims of intentional trespass. Others argued that these cases were time-barred after the passing of only 3 years, consistent with intentional tort claims under Wis. Stat. §893.57. The crux of the disagreement was whether the harm resulting from an intentional trespass injured the physical property itself or whether it injured the individual rights of the property owner.

In its recent decision in Munger v. Seehafer, 2014 AP 2594 (Nov. 29, 2016) a 3-judge panel for the Wisconsin Court of Appeals ruled that the 3-year statute of limitations applies to claims of intentional trespass. The court reasoned that intentional trespass does not necessarily result in actual damage to the property itself; rather, it inhibits the property owner’s inherent right to exclude others from his or her property. Therefore, the same statute of limitations that applies to causes of action for the intentional acts of libel and slander should control. In sum, the Court of Appeals ruled that intentional trespass to property is a personal tort claim that must be filed within 3 years of the occurrence (with some limited exceptions) in compliance with the requirements of Wis. Stat. §893.57.

If you believe your rights as a property owner have been compromised by the trespass of an unwelcome individual or entity, it is important that you take timely legal action. John M. Kelly, Attorney at Law, LLC has over 42 years of hands-on experience handling property disputes and other issues on behalf of landowners. Call today to speak with a seasoned legal practitioner.