The big question is, as outrageous as this situation may appear, just how likely is it in court?
Three Classes Of Visitation
In general, a homeowner may expect three different types of visitors. Invitees are people that you actually invite to come to your home, such as friends, extended family and others. Licensees are people that you give consent to come onto your property in order to conduct business, like postal workers delivering your mail, or pizza delivery staff. Trespassers are people that have no invitation and therefore no right to be on your property.
In most cases, trespassers do not have the same rights for protection as people invited to your home. For example, if you leave a spot of grease on your porch after working on a personal project, and a postal worker slips, falls and becomes injured because you did not clean that grease, you may be liable. That postal worker can sue you for neglecting your duty to maintain a safe environment.
However, if that same grease spot were left in the garage where a thief has broken through the window and climbed in during a break in attempt, you don’t have to worry. This type of injury does not render you liable to a lawsuit. But, there ARE instances where a trespasser can sue you.
The law recognizes that no one can predict when and who will break into a home. That’s why random burglars entering a property have very little protection under the law. On the other hand, if you have a regular trespasser, and you know this occurs periodically, you now have certain responsibilities.
People that own a property that has a reputation for being haunted, for example, often have to deal with amateur ghost hunters that illegally trespass and spend the night there looking for ghostly evidence. When you know that you have trespasser coming onto your property on a regular basis, you have to exercise some responsibility, such as putting up signs that warn people of possible dangers. And exposed, open elevator shaft, for example, where injury and/or death can easily occur should be visibly pointed out.
It’s one thing to set up a burglar alarm that summons the police and alerts a burglar to the fact that you know a break in is occurring. It’s another thing to attempt to kill a burglar through the use of a trap. Even if a burglar is breaking into your home, if you deliberately create a trap—like a shotgun attached to a string, aimed at the window—that has the express purpose of injuring or killing an intruder, you may be charged for this.