My friend and I brought a rental house last year in Philadelphia, PA., and it was under construction for few months. While the house was under work, the kids from the neighborhood trespassed to my property a few times, and stole everything in my backyard. In addition, they damaged my basement door and tried to break into the house.

After we noticed the damage in the basement door, we put some barriers (screws, glass and metal wire) on the backyard to prevent them from coming in again. However, they tried to trespass again but this time one of the kid got injured by the barrier we put up. A year later we received a letter from their attorney by regular mail asking for our insurance company contact information. In addition they sent out a certified mail but we didn't accept or sign it.

I called the police when I noticed the injured (some neighbor told me) and the police said we have nothing to do with the injured.

Will they go after me for the loss? I did have insurance on the property. Will it help if I remove everything under my name or sell the property?

  • This sounds like something that you should ask a lawyer about. My personal thoughts? You should be fine. But I'm a teen, and definitely not a lawyer. I'm probably not legally trustable, if that even means anything.
    – Zizouz212
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 0:18
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of Trespassers and liability
    – Dale M
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 1:47
  • 2
    @DaleM not a duplicate because we have an actual injury to a child and traps
    – jqning
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 14:18

2 Answers 2


The nature of the barrier is almost certainly the central variable. One can find walls with broken glass embedded in the top face; I assume that the barrier is something like that, and that it is obvious to anyone attempting to scale the wall that they stand a good chance of getting cut. It appears that there is no Philadelphia-specific or Pennsylvania-specific prohibition against such fences, so then the question would be whether damage was caused intentionally. An owner owes no duty to trespassers "on account of the mere condition of his premises". However glass-topped walls are not a natural condition of premises, so we must ask if a purpose of such a barrier is to injure unsuspecting trespassers. Given the factual premise that the hazard is evident, there are no unsuspecting trespassers. Still, that might not deter an attorney, so the next question would be whether this is a reasonable defense of the property. 25 C.J. 1041 states that a person owes no duty to trespassers on his land, specifically saying the rule applies even to a barbed wire fence (assuming the barrier is not alongside the road).

Selling the property or in some other manner washing your hands of the property would not address your existing liability. Sounds like it's time for a lawyer.


First, you should definitely contact a lawyer to assist you! My take is that you are liable for the injury and any damage/loss decurring from that. Even if the kids trespassed, the contractor would be liable if the kids got injured due to lack of compliance with contruction safety legal standards. Moreover if you build traps... Just think: If the trap was set to fire a gun (or to drop a concrete block, or whatever...), thus resulting in the kids death, wouldn't you be liable? However, this will ultimately depend on your jurisduction. But if as you mention, they previously had stolen things from your property, you can also fight back pressing charges for that plus trespassing. This might demote them from pressing charges against you.

  • This answer is either wrong, or has significant misunderstandings. No one as pressed charges, and no one set up a trap to use a firearm against someone. It doesn't even address the situation listed in the question.
    – Zizouz212
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 19:40
  • I admit it might be wrong under common law jurisdictions. Under most european jurisdictions it is correct based on the premises I present in my answer. If putting up an obstacle containing screws, glass and wire is not considered as a trap will depend on where (in the backyard) they were and on the judge interpretation. Looking on the comments above I see I was not the only giving it such title.
    – paul black
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 23:43
  • Zizouz I do not say someone has pressed charges. What I do say is that if user4734 presses charges for the (so far) only commonly accepted as criminal offenses (trespassing and theft) someone suffered, might make them change their mind about pursuing any kind of damage recovery. Or at least it provides some negotiation leverage. Here I directly refer to the question - "will they go after me for the loss?" (go after = sue). As for the firearms, I think my purpose with such example is obvious to almost everyone.
    – paul black
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 23:43
  • The jurisdiction is the us, not Europe. As for your example, it is completely out of proportion with the seriousness of the incident.
    – Zizouz212
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 3:36
  • I could not know it was in the US at the time of my answer. It was not a known fact, as you only edited the answer later. In any case, your comments ignore all the points in my answer/comments. And you play the card of it being too serious to give extreme examples in order to make a point. Nevermind...
    – paul black
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 11:31

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