Say some neighborhood kid was playing baseball and accidentally hit the ball into my yard. Theoretically, if I own the house or my lease permits, I have the right to control access to my yard and, therefore, access to the ball, even if I don't own the ball. If someone retrieves the ball without my permission, they are trespassing.

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    Actually, that would be more like a privileged entry: one is privileged to enter another’s land for the purpose of removing a chattel at a reasonable time and manner without causing any damage.
    – gracey209
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 12:29
  • The question in the title and in the body are different ones. Commented Apr 7 at 11:31

1 Answer 1


This is a general common law answer; specifics in California may differ.

Yes, they are committing the tort of trespass and you could sue them for whatever damage they did to your property; probably nothing.

On the other hand, if you keep the ball, you are committing the tort of detinue (wrongful detention of another person's goods when the owner has requested their return) and they can sue you for whatever damage you have done to them; the cost of a new ball probably.


No, it isn't; give it back.

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    To make this even more interesting: (1) What if I accidentally destroy the baseball by running over it with my lawnmower before they ask for its return? (2) What if I intentionally destroy the baseball before they ask for its return? Those are both (literally) torts, but are there common law torts that apply?
    – feetwet
    Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 0:12
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    @feetwet - Those are interesting. Why don't you ask them?
    – Dale M
    Commented Sep 13, 2015 at 23:31
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    Indeed -- Done!
    – feetwet
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 1:53
  • @feetwet - the real question should be “what if I run over it with the riding mower and the ball is propelled at such a force it hits a passerby, and they are killed?” This is the bigger risk, I’d say. I’ll check back in 5 years to see if you have any thoughts on this. Commented Dec 18, 2020 at 0:19
  • Are you sure you need a TL;DR for such a short post?
    – mathlander
    Commented Feb 24, 2023 at 20:41

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