What you need to know about landowner liability, trespassing laws

One problem we consistently hear about from Farm Bureau members is trespassing. Unfortunately, the amount of land that farmers have can often times be enticing to those who want to hike, ride ATVs, or just cause trouble. Members also are often concerned about what their liability is in certain situations, if visitors to their property get hurt. Here are five things to know about Ohio’s trespassing and landowner liability laws:

1. Trespassing is a crime under Ohio Revised Code 2911.21, and is typically a fourth degree misdemeanor. Landowners should contact local authorities if they see trespassers on their property, but should not attempt to detain a trespasser themselves.

2. Trespassing can also be the basis of a civil lawsuit. Most civil cases dealing with trespassing are concerned chiefly with recovering damages from trespassers. If landowners are interested in a civil claim, they should contact private legal counsel.

3. Under Ohio law, a person takes on a certain status when they enter the property of another. Depending on why or how the person has entered the property, they may be considered a trespasser, a known trespasser, a licensee/social guest or a business invitee.

4. Whether or not a landowner will be liable for a visitor’s injuries is somewhat dependent on the visiting person’s status. The status determines what duty the landowner owes to that visitor. Liability questions are largely based on the specific facts of the situation.

5. Ohio has created special protection for landowners in certain situations. First is a liability protection when land is opened to the public for recreational uses like hunting and fishing. Another protects landowners when they are using the property for public access to growing agricultural products, commonly referred to as “U-Pick” or “Pick Your Own” type establishments. However, landowners have no protection from liability for injuries that they may cause through intentional, willful or wanton misconduct.

More Landowner Information

For further explanation of these tips and other information on other topics impacting landowners, Ohio Farm Bureau members can log in and download the Landowner Toolkit. Not a member? Join today!

Get the full list of landowner topics covered in the toolkit, with tips blogs for each in Ohio Farm Bureau’s Legal Information Series.

Also, listen to Legal with Leah, a podcast featuring Ohio Farm Bureau’s Director of Ag Law Leah Curtis discussing topics impacting landowners.