My friend, um, Bob, was walking along a trail when he encountered this very intriguing sign.
Driven by a healthy inquisitive nature, Bob climbed over the fence to see what was on the other side.
Who are all the safety barriers for? Bob wondered. Isn’t the locked gate supposed to keep everyone out? Why do they need to put up orange cones for visitors who shouldn’t be there in the first place?
Because our wonderful civil justice system holds landowners legally responsible for the stupidity of trespassers.
In the 1982 case of Bodine v. Enterprise High School, Rick Bodine climbed onto the roof of a school building to steal some spotlights. After removing one spotlight, he was on his way across the roof to reach another when he stepped on a skylight and fell through the glass.
The fall left him paralyzed and brain damaged. The school district declined to press charges, figuring he had suffered enough. Instead of being grateful, Bodine’s family sued the school for negligence.
Bodine’s family demanded $8 million, and the school settled for the nuisance sum of $260,000 plus $1200/month for life (those are 1984 dollars, so I’m not sure how much that would be today).
Taxpayers were rightfully outraged, especially since the quadriplegic Bodine would be on government welfare for the rest of his life regardless of the settlement. California Civil Code 847 was enacted in 1985 in response to that backlash, and now states that a property owner shall not be liable if the trespasser is injured while committing a felony. The trespass itself is not a felony.
And they all lived tortfully ever after.