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Ploof v. Putnam

Citation. 81 Vt. 471, 71 A. 188 (1908)
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Brief Fact Summary.

Ploof (Plaintiff) attached his boat to Putnam’s (Defendant) dock during a storm to protect his family. Defendant’s servant unhooked the boat, destroying it and causing injuries to Plaintiff’s family. Plaintiff sued Defendant for trespass and negligence.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

When something out of one’s control causes one to enter upon another person’s land, one cannot be held liable for trespass.


Ploof (Plaintiff) and his family were out sailing on a lake when a sudden storm began. To protect his boat and family, Plaintiff secured his boat onto Putnam’s (Defendant) dock on an island. Defendant’s servant unhooked the boat from the dock. Once unsecured, the storm led the boat to crash onto the shore and flung Plaintiff’s family into the lake, injuring them. Plaintiff has sued Defendant for trespass and negligence for unhooking the boat.


Is entering onto another’s land permitted in cases of necessity?


Yes, the Court held that Plaintiff’s entry onto Defendant’s land was permitted due to necessity. The Court affirmed and remanded the case.


  • The Court justifies trespasses on private land when some condition out of the would-be trespasser’s control makes it necessary for them to enter the landowner’s property.
  • The Court provides two examples of necessity: chasing sheep who cannot be controlled and driving onto private land when the highway is unexpectedly blocked.
  • In its ruling, the Court also emphasizes the importance of protecting human life over property.
  • In this case, it was necessary for the Plaintiff to attach his boat on Defendant’s dock to protect his family’s lives and his property because the storm was out of his control. Plaintiff cannot be held liable for what would otherwise be a trespass.

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