Trespass ab initio – All you need to know

Trespass ab initio – All you need to know

Trespass ab initio

It is a known practice in our various societies, that When a person enters a land by lawful authority or permission and abuses such permission, the person is deemed a trespasser ab initio; from the beginning. This is meant to curtail the abusiveness of authority. It restrains a person to that which he is mandated by law.

Trespass ab initio means trespass from the beginning. Under Law, certain persons have the right to enter premises in the course of the lawful discharge of their duties. Examples of persons who may lawfully enter a landed property in the proper execution of their duties include the police on the investigation, or effecting an arrest or a postman delivering letters, electricity, and telecommunication authority personnel in the exercise of their lawful duties, court bailiff serving a process or distraining property pursuant to a judgment of the court, firemen on inspection of safety gadgets on the premises.

Health and environmental sanitation inspectors on duty, and salespersons may also enter premises, especially, commercial premises to canvass for sales of their products.

The doctrine of trespass ab initio means that when a person enters the landed property of another person by authority of law, which is distinct from the permission granted by the plaintiff occupier and the person who entered by authority of law subsequently misbehaves or otherwise abuses his right of entry by his conduct, for instance, by stealing, damaging, destroying, assaulting, fighting, instituting, breaching the peace, disobedience and so forth.

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The abuse shall relate back to the entry of his entry on the property. This entails that it shall be deemed that he was a trespasser from the time he entered the property. The purport of this law is that people are meant to abide by the authority with which they are authorized to enter a premise. The wrongdoer who was formerly permitted by law to enter a premise shall not be exculpated from liability if he enters the premises and is diverted from what he was authorized by law.

However, the abuse of entry in question must be some positive act of wrongdoing and not a non-feasance, that is it must not be an omission to do something. In other words, a person becomes a trespasser ab initio by act and not by omission.

Do note that where the doctrine applies, the person is regarded by law as a trespasser from the moment he entered the land, and damages are assessed on the footing that his entire conduct was tortious and not just his subsequent conduct.

Exceptions to Trespass Ab initio

The general principle of law is that a person permitted by law to enter a premise is meant to act within the gamut of such authority. This enters that if he enters the environment and now changes his plan that he may be deemed a trespasser from the beginning (ab initio).

However, where the authority, license, permission, or invitation to enter was made by the person in possession of a defendant or trespasser, the doctrine of trespass ab ignition does not apply, because the defendant entered originally as an invitee, licensee, or upon an invitation to treat, and so forth.

Our Considered Case:

The Six Carpenters Case:

The six defendants who were carpenters entered a tavern, a public place by virtue of the nature of its business, and a signboard outside which is an invitation to the public to treat. They ate and drank and paid for the first service. Upon a second service, they refused to pay on request. The proprietor sued to recover damages. The court held: that the carpenters entered the premises on an invitation extended by the proprietor to the public. They were not trespassers from the beginning. The Court held as follows: “when an entry, authority or license is given to anyone in law, and he abuses it, he shall be a trespasser ab initio: but not where the entry, authority or license is given by the party.

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Tenants who hold over or Overstay

Where a tenant holds over or overstay in premises he has let or otherwise remains in possession after his tenancy has ended, or he remains in possession after proper notice to quit served on him has expired, he does not thereby become a trespasser or a trespasser ab initio.

Reference: Law of Tort – Ese Malemi

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