Mesa AZ | Homeowner liability for the injuries of a trespasser

If you are a homeowner, you are probably always thinking about something regarding your home. Renovation projects, bills, perfecting the yard, the faucet that won’t stop leaking, and so forth.  There are also legal subjects regarding your home that you should consider. Among these is premises liability: your liability for the injuries of other individuals that occur on your property.

For the most part, you can only be liable for the injuries of another individual if you breached a duty of care that you owed that individual. In premises liability, the duty of care that you owe an individual who is on your property varies depending on the nature of that individual. You owe the strongest duty of care to your guests – the people you invite onto your property. You must warn adult guests of any “concealed dangers” of which you are aware on your property. If you do not provide an adequate warning, and a concealed danger of which you were aware injures a guest, you can be found negligent and liable for the guest’s injuries. This duty increases even further if your guest is a child. If the guest is a child, you must evaluate the child’s capacity to understand both the risk of harm from a concealed danger and the warning you might give. You must then give a warning that is adequate for that child.

For all individuals on your property who are not trespassing, you must give some form of warning of any unreasonably dangerous conditions on your property of which you know or should know. If you do not do so, and an unreasonably dangerous condition on your property injures an individual, you could be found negligent and liable for that individual’s injuries.

Now, let’s finish by discussing trespassers. News stories pop up every now and then about burglars who break into a home, get injured for one reason or another, and then sue the homeowner for damages. In some states and countries, such a lawsuit might have some possibility of success. In Arizona, such a claim will almost certainly fail. By statute, you as a homeowner do “not owe a duty of care to a trespasser except to refrain from causing intentional, willful or wanton injury.” In other words, you will not be liable for a trespasser’s injuries unless you caused them on purpose and you didn’t have a good reason to do so, such as self-defense.

However, the statute does not apply to a trespasser who is a child. If the trespasser was a child, you can still be found negligent and possibly liable for the child’s injuries if all of the following is true (source: Arizona’s Revised Jury Instructions):

  1. The child was injured by a condition on your property; and
  2. You knew or should have known that children were likely to trespass near the condition; and
  3. You knew or should have known that the condition posed an unreasonable risk of harm to children; and
  4. Because of the child’s age, the child did not understand the risk of harm involved; and
  5. The usefulness of the condition and the burden of eliminating the risk of harm are slight compared to the risk of harm to children; and
  6. You failed to use reasonable care to protect the child.

I hope that this very brief overview of premises liability laws has been informative. However, there is a lot more to learn about this subject. If you want to know more, please give us a call.


This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you or someone you know wishes to seek the help of an experienced personal injury attorney regarding Homeowner Liability for the Injuries of Others, or other personal injury matters, call 480.461.5300. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.