My car parked at my residence was made dirty by some neighbouring building construction. Can I get compensated in some way (e.g., paying for car wash)? I live in California, USA.

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    Washing your car is a normal and expected part of owning a car. How much is a car wash? $10?
    – abelenky
    Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 12:30
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    @abelenky Respecting each other's properties is also normal and expected. Would you be ok with someone defecating on your car? Anyway I'm looking for legal insight, not moral. I'm ok if the legal answer is one can't claim anything, but I just want to know. Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 12:34
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    If the builders dirtied your car deliberately or even negligently, then possibly. If they were doing their job normally, then no. Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 9:31
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    Although it doesn't necessarily answer this question theoretically, I would suggest thinking about the principle of de minimis non curat lex. This is simply not the kind of issue that legal processes are meant to resolve. Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 13:12
  • The right to exclude others from private property is hardly considered a de minimis interest in common law countries. The OP has a claim, as described below.
    – bdb484
    Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 20:19

1 Answer 1



The tort of trespass addresses this situation.

In California, the plaintiff in a trespass suit must prove five things:

  1. Plaintiff occupied the property;

  2. Defendant negligently entered plaintiff's property (this can include an entry by the defendant, or by tangible objects that the defendant caused to enter the property, Newhall Land & Farming Co. v. Superior Court 19 Cal.App.4th 334, 345 (1993));

  3. Plaintiff did not authrize that entry;

  4. Plaintiff was harmed; and

  5. Defendant's entry caused that harm.

Obviously, the time and expense associated with pursuing this lawsuit would quickly outstrip the value of any damages likely to be recovered. But a person who just really wanted to stick it to the construction company should have a viable case.

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    Not a lawyer and just curious about your item #2... If the construction dust was blown into a neighboring parking lot by a wind or breeze, then has the defendant "caused" it to enter the property? Could this be considered an act of God, similar to a tree being blown over? Thank you.
    – James
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 11:53
  • I would have said nuisance rather than trespass, although the two torts often get confused with each other, even by appellate courts.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Sep 21, 2021 at 1:02

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