Dougherty v Stepp

Fact pattern and procedural history

A defendant entered the property of another with a surveyor under the auspices of identifying his own property line. There were no posted signs or fencing. Damage to the property was minimal. Plaintiff sued for trespass quare clausum fregit and the judge directed the jury to find no trespass, leading to appeal by plaintiff.

Questions of law

Can an action for trespass qcf be maintained if there is no signage or boundary to identify the property line? Does the degree of property damage make the difference between a trespass and non-trespass? Can the same action be maintained if the trespasser believes it to be his own property?

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Finding

The court found for the appellant plaintiff, holding that “the entry constitutes the trespass” and that the degree of damage to the property is immaterial to the presence of the intentional tort. The existence of marked or erected boundaries is similarly inconsequential, as are any inaccurate beliefs about property lines held by the trespasser.

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