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McConico v. Singleton

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Defendant went over Plaintiff’s unenclosed and unimproved property to hunt deer without Plaintiff’s permission. Plaintiff brought suit against Defendant for trespass. The jury held that each party should pay its own costs. The case was appealed to the appellate court.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Under the trespass doctrine, a hunter is not prevented from participating in the custom of hunting on unenclosed land, even without the landowner’s permission.

    Facts.

    McConico, Plaintiff, instructed Singleton, Defendant, to not hunt on Plaintiff’s property. Plaintiff’s property was not enclosed or improved. Defendant ignored Plaintiff’ order and rode over Plaintiff’s property to hunt deer. Plaintiff brought suit against Defendant on the grounds of trespass. The jury decided that each party should pay its own costs. Plaintiff motioned for a new trial alleging that Defendant’s riding over the property was a trespass, as Defendant did it without Plaintiff’s permission. The case was appealed to the Constitutional Court of Appeals of South Carolina.

    Issue.

    Whether, under the trespass doctrine, a hunter is prevented from participating in the custom of hunting on unenclosed land without the landowner’s permission.

    Held.

    No, under the trespass doctrine, a hunter is not prevented from participating in the custom of hunting on unenclosed land, even without the landowner’s permission.

    Discussion.

    Under the trespass doctrine, a hunter is not prevented from participating in the custom of hunting on unenclosed land, even without the landowner’s permission. The forest is an area that is a common resource where hunters may enter at their own desire. Additionally, animals are common property. Thus, whoever is the first taker, is the owner of the animal. Before the case at hand, the right to hunt on property that is not enclosed or not cultivated has been unchallenged. The legislature has enacted several laws in this area, which clearly recognize the right to hunt on unenclosed and uncultivated land. Moreover, for a defendants actions to constitute a trespass, there must be an actual injury. Minimal action, such as riding over soil or grass, does not constitute an injury. Grass, similar to the forest, is common property. Thus, one cannot claim a trespass against another for taking a minimal action of riding over grass. Therefore, an individual cannot deprive another of a right that the law grants the latter.


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