Owners wouldn’t be obliged to make property safe for trespassers

By Chris Steller

Trespassers, beware!

HF985, sponsored by Rep. Dan Fabian (R-Roseau), would prevent, in most cases, landowners from owing a “duty of care” to people who venture onto private property without permission.

Common law already limits Minnesotans’ ability to sue if they are injured while trespassing. Fabian’s bill would put those restrictions into statute, alongside a few exceptions such as for people pursuing outdoor recreation.

“I want the people to know that the likelihood of some sort of a lawsuit coming against them is diminished,” Fabian said. ”Horribly, tragically, some bad things do happen. It’s not because anybody’s intentionally doing things. But I want to try to look out for the landowners, the property owners.”

The House Civil Law and Data Practices Policy Committee approved HF985 Tuesday on a 9-6, roll-call party-line vote. The bill’s next stop is the House Floor. HF985 has no Senate companion.

Rep. Andrew Carlson (DFL-Bloomington) attacked the bill as a product the American Legislative Exchange Council, also known as ALEC, an organization dedicated to the principles of limited government, free markets and federalism.

Rep. Peggy Scott (R-Andover), committee chair, decried DFLers frequently conjuring up the “bogeyman” of ALEC backing, as if the organization is the “author of all things awful.”

Rep. Debra Hilstrom (DFL-Brooklyn Center) warned that HF985 would freeze existing common law in statute, making it impossible for Republican proponents to expand protections for property owners in the future. 

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