July 18, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Trespass Claim Could Not Be Maintained Against Defendants in Personal Injury Case

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Mikes v. Burnett on Thursday, June 20, 2013.

Trespass—Injuries—Possession.

Plaintiff Daniel Mikes appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants Lyndon B. Burnett, Joe Craven, and J & V Diller Ranch, LLC. The judgment was affirmed.

In July 2010, steers owned by Burnett and J & V Diller wandered onto neighboring land owned by Lester Friend. Friend asked several individuals, including Mikes, if they would assist him in herding the steers off his property. While Mikes was attempting to separate Burnett’s steers from Friend’s cows using his four-wheel vehicle, the vehicle flipped several times, and he was injured.

On appeal, Mikes contended that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on his trespass claims. Specifically, he argued that he could maintain a claim for trespass of the steers because he was in possession of Friend’s land when he was injured. The owner of livestock is strictly liable for damages caused when the livestock trespass on another’s land. Further, a claim for trespass may be asserted by anyone injured while in possession of that land. Mikes did not claim he constructively possessed Friend’s land, and it was undisputed that Mikes does not own the land. Further, the record did not establish that Mikes had anything more than a temporary right to enter Friend’s land to help move the steers, and there is no evidence in the record suggesting that Friend granted Mikes any right to occupy, control, or manipulate the land in any manner. Consequently, as a matter of law, he could not maintain a trespass claim against defendants.

Summary and full case available here.

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