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Letter: Trespasser Liability Reform Needed

Today, the Brooklyn Eagle published a letter by LRANY Executive Director Tom Stebbins calling for common-sense reform to New York’s trespasser liability laws.

“We applaud Senator Squadron, Assemblyman Lentol, and Borough President Adams on their call for steeper penalties for trespassing at New York’s landmarks and infrastructure projects (NYC pols seek increased penalties for bridge, infrastructure trespassing, 11.18.14). However, the greater problem is that those criminals can sue the city if they are injured while trespassing. Only in New York and California can a trespasser sue a property owner for injuries incurred while trespassing.”

Read the full letter here

LRANY Executive Director Statement in Response to Brooklyn Elected Officials

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“We applaud Senator Squadron, Assemblyman Lentol, and Borough President Adams on their call for steeper penalties for trespassing at New York’s landmarks and infrastructure projects. However, the greater problem is that those criminals can sue the City if they are injured while trespassing. Only in New York and California can a trespasser sue a property owner for injuries incurred while trespassing.

This is not only a burden for New York City and municipalities statewide, but also a burden to every property owner in the state of New York who pays higher insurance costs due to potential lawsuits by criminal trespassers.

We urge the Senator and Assemblyman to support common sense Trespasser Responsibility legislation to indemnify New York property owners against lawsuits from flagrant trespassers.”

Tom Stebbins

Execuitve Director

Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York

LRANY Video Series: Trespasser Responsibility

brokenwindowThis week, to continue the LRANY video series, we bring to you a video on trespasser responsibility.  Currently, New York is one of only two states in the nation where a trespasser can sue a property owner for injuries incurred while trespassing. This backwards standard of liability threatens law abiding New Yorkers’ right to free enjoyment of their property and provides a strong disincentive for businesses to locate in the state.

LRANY supports legislation (S.3619 (Seward)/A.4824 (Magee)) which would prohibit trespassers from suing property owners for their injuries.  The legislation provides exceptions for child trespassers and attractive nuisances such as playgrounds and swimming pools.

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VIDEO: Tom Stebbins Talks New York Lawsuit Reform With Trial Attorney David Lesch

LRANY Executive Director, Tom Stebbins, was a recent guest on “Today’s Verdict“, a TV show hosted by trial attorney David Lesch.  Tom discussed common sense reforms to our legal system that would create jobs and lower costs to New Yorkers.  During the interview, Tom addressed the issue of trespasser responsibility, which allows trespassers to sue property owners for injuries; as well as the antiquated ‘Scaffold Law‘ which holds employers absolutely liable for any elevation related injury, regardless of their proportion of fault.

We thank David Lesch and the team at “Today’s Verdict” for having Tom as a guest.  The naturally opposing views of a trial attorney and a tort reform activist certainly made for an interesting interview, and hopefully brought the two sides closer to common ground.

Click here to watch the October 9th interview. 

New Tort Definition Expands Trespassers’ Right to Sue

A recent article  explains “a new Restatement of Tort (ROT) approved in April 2010 by the American Law Institute that alters the landowner-trespasser relationship—and has the potential to provide a trespasser with the legal means to sue a homeowner or association for injuries. It says what a court should do is give trespassers the same duty of care given to a customer coming to a business or a visitor coming to a house.”

Currently, New York and California are the only states in the nation in which a landowner can be held liable for injuries sustained by a trespasser.  This means that a person who enters another’s property without legal right or permission and sustains an injury, can sue the land possessor for that injury; making this an important issue for everyone in New York. This session, the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York secured the introduction of bipartisan legislation which would prevent a flagrant trespasser from suing a landowner and recovering damages. This legislation dials back such broad and open-ended liability exposure by codifying traditional common law liability rules relating to trespassers that exist in most other states. The bill protects landowners from the unwarranted expansion of liability suggested in the Restatement (Third) of Torts, and this codification of the common law ‘no duty to trespassers’ rule is an important step in protecting landowners.

The ROT does not change any state law, but rather acts as a reference for judges on each state’s tort threshold.  ”PCI and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) fear this particular update could open a loophole for potentially costly litigation against landowners”. The ultimate impact of this, aside from the clear unfairness, is the potential increase of insurance premiums for homeowners and businesses.  These high rates already impact every New Yorker through higher insurance costs, higher taxes, and increased cost of goods and services.

LRANY will continue to fight for the rights of property owners in this upcoming session! see our memo of support.

Contact your elected officials and urge them to pass this legislation to bring commonsense back to NY!