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Baker v. Shymkiv

    Brief Fact Summary.

    The Shymikvs had dug up a trench on the Bakers’ driveway. Homer Baker began to yell at John Shymkiv for the trench that was dug up on his property. After Mary Baker went inside to call the police, she later found Homer face down on the driveway. Homer subsequently died.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A trespasser will be found liable for any bodily injury that occurs to the owner of the land or any of the owner’s family members regardless of whether the trespasser’s conduct was foreseeable.

    Facts.

    As Homer and Mary Baker (Plaintiffs) drove into their driveway, they saw their neighbors, John Shymkiv and his wife (Defendants), throwing equipment in the trunk of their car. When Plaintiffs exited their car, they saw that a trench had been dug across their driveway. The trench had drain tile, which allowed water from Defendants’ property drain from their property to a neighboring landowner’s property. When Homer yelled at John, Mary went inside to call the police. As soon as she returned a few minutes later, Mary found Homer face down on the driveway. Mary also saw Defendants drive away. Homer subsequently died. On behalf of Homer’s estate, Mary filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Defendants. Mary sought damages for her own pecuniary loss as well as compensatory and punitive damages for Defendants’ trespass. At trial, the jury was instructed that Mary’s damages must have been foreseen or reasonably anticipated as likely to follow from the trespass, and that this had to be found in order for Defendants to be found liable. As a result, the jury found in favor of Defendants. After Mary appealed, the court of appeals reversed because of the error in the jury instruction. The Ohio Supreme Court subsequently granted certiorari.

    Issue.

    Will a trespasser be found liable for any bodily injury that occurs to the owner of the land or any other the owner’s family members regardless of whether the trespasser’s conduct was foreseeable?

    Held.

    Yes. A trespasser will be found liable for any bodily injury that occurs to the owner of the land or any of the owner’s family members. This liability will be found regardless of whether the trespasser’s conduct was foreseeable. Because the Defendants intentionally entered the land of the Plaintiffs without permission and because Plaintiff died from bodily injury that occurred during this trespass, Defendants are liable. As such, the court of appeal’s judgment is affirmed.

    Discussion.

    As soon as a defendant intentionally enters the land of another without that person’s consent and as soon as bodily harm results to that landowner or his family members, the defendant is considered liable. It is immaterial if a defendant’s actions were foreseeable or not. A defendant who trespasses on another’s land bears the risk of being liable for any bodily harm that occurs during his trespass.


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