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Landowner Liability For Trespassers In Idaho Negligence Law Cases

The elements of a cause of action for negligence in Idaho:

They consist of a duty, recognized by law, requiring the defendant to conform to a certain standard of conduct; a breach of the duty; a causal connection between the defendant's conduct and the plaintiff's injuries; and actual loss or damage flowing from those injuries. Coghlan v. Beta Theta Pi Fraternity, 133 Idaho 388, 398, 987 P.2d 300, 310 (1999).

A landowner's duty to a person entering his or her land is dependent upon the status of that individual. See Keller v. Holiday Inns, Inc., 107 Idaho 593, 595, 691 P.2d 1208, 1210 (1984).

Additionally, the general rule of premises liability is that one having control of the premises may be liable for failure to keep the premises in repair. See Harrison v. Taylor, 115 Idaho 588, 596, 768 P.2d 1321, 1329 (1989).

The law of negligence in Idaho, unlike that of Montana or New Mexico, is not codified and remains subject to common-law analysis. Moreover, in Idaho, unlike either Montana or New Mexico, the duty of a landowner varies with the status of the person injured. Compare DeGraff v. Wight, 130 Idaho 577, 579, 944 P.2d 712, 714 (1997) (an owner or occupier's duty to a known trespasser, or a trespasser that could reasonably have been anticipated, is to not injure the trespasser by a willful and wanton act or by doing an affirmative act of negligence), and Giles v. Montgomery Ward Co., 94 Idaho 484, 485, 491 P.2d 1256, 1257 (1971) (an owner or occupier's duty to a business invitee requires it to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition or warn of hidden or concealed dangers of which the owner or one in charge knew or should have know by the exercise of reasonable care).

In Chimiente v. Adam Corp., 221 N.J. Super. 580, 535 A.2d 528 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 1987), a commercial landowner is responsible for maintaining, in reasonably good condition, the sidewalks abutting its property.

One of the rationales for this rule is that sidewalks increase the value of commercial property.

In holding that a well-worn path used by some customers to gain access to the property was not a sidewalk for the purposes of this rule, the Chimiente court stated that there was no duty "upon commercial landowners to maintain contiguous lands owned by others simply because the public chooses to use the lands as a means of access to the commercial property." 535 A.2d at 530.

The Chimiente court noted that a commercial landowner had no legal right to assume control and maintenance over property owned by others and used by trespassers to access the landowner's business.

As stated above, the general rule of premises liability is that one having control of the premises may be liable for failure to keep the premises in repair. See Harrison, 115 Idaho at 596, 768 P.2d at 1329.

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