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Property is surely a right of mankind as real as liberty.

John Adams

Yes, you can.

What Is Trespass In California?

Trespass in California is a tort, or civil wrong (we’re not talking about the crime of trespass). You probably heard about other torts, like negligence or battery.

Generally, owners and tenants have a right to exclude people or things from trespassing onto their property. Trespass happens when a person enters onto your property without permission.

Trespass is physical and tangible. For example, if your neighbor starts a fire which burns your house, that’s a trespass. If your neighbor plays loud music which you can hear from your house, that’s not a trespass.

Flood and fire can be trespass. Evan has handled cases like this, and is happy to help you if he can!

How Do You Prove Trespass In California?

Here are the elements you must show in order to prove trespass:

  1. You owned or controlled the property (e.g., house, condo, apartment);
  2. Defendant intentionally, recklessly, or intentionally entered the property;
  3. You didn’t give defendant permission to enter;
  4. You were harmed; and
  5. Defendant’s entry was a substantial factor in causing you harm.

Intent (see no. 2) only means that a person intended to be on the property. For example, a person who walks into your yard “intends” to be there. A person who is pushed into your yard doesn’t “intend” to be there.

What Damages Are Recoverable In A Trespass Lawsuit?

Damages may be recovered for “annoyance and distress, including mental anguish.” Nominal damages are often awarded as well. See Kornoff v Kingsburg Cotton Oil Co (1955) 45 Cal.2d 265, 272. Those damages are distinct from general damages for mental or emotional distress. See Kelly v CB&I Construction, Inc (2009) 179 Cal.App.4th 442, 456.

The proper and general measure of damages, however, is the lesser of either 1) diminution of value; or 2) cost of repair, subject to the personal reasons exception.

What Are The Types Of Trespass In California?

There are different types of trespass. Trespass may be a one-off incident, or it could be permanent or continuing. Trespass could be from intentional, reckless, or negligent activity.

Trespass could be on or above the surface, or it could be below the surface.

What Are The Statutes Of Limitations For Trespass In California?

Generally, suit must be brought within 3 yrs of the trespass. See CCP § 338(b).

Questions? Contact Me for a free consultation.

Evan Walker

Evan W. Walker is a La Jolla attorney who has practiced law since 2008. He has practiced law throughout California, Connecticut, and Louisiana.

Evan worked for and defended insurance companies during the first 7 years of his practice. Since 2015, he has represented people with personal injury and property damage claims and insurance disputes.

Evan’s practice is devoted to serious personal injury claims and catastrophic property damage claims. Areas of focus include security claims against bars and other businesses, government tort claims, fire and flood claims, and inverse condemnation. On behalf of clients, Evan has fought insurance firms, international companies, cities, bars, and casinos.

Evan regularly shares his expertise with other attorneys by teaching courses on insurance and inverse condemnation. He has taught several continuing legal education courses to Attorney Credits, a nationwide CLE company, and ProLawCLE, another nationwide CLE company. He also contributes to various podcasts and publications.


  • Member, State Bar of California
  • Member, San Diego Bar Association
  • Member, Consumer Attorneys of California
  • Member, Consumer Attorneys of San Diego
  • Member, La Jolla Bar Association
  • Member, La Jolla Village Merchants Association
  • Member, San Diego Chamber of Commerce