Proposed amendments to Manitoba’s Occupiers’ Liability Act would insulate a broader range of property owners and leaseholders from punitive consequences if trespassers die, suffer injury or property damage during their unauthorized forays onto private premises. A related amendment to the Petty Trespasses Act would eliminate the current requirement to personally advise interlopers they are unwelcome before legal action can be pursued.
“A significant public consultation process has led to these changes, which provide clarity to existing legislation, rebalance the understanding of liability rules and reduce the risk of conflict between landowners and others,” submits Cameron Friesen, Manitoba Justice Minister.
Currently, landowners and recreational trail managers are generally not held liable for death or injuries due to off-road-vehicle mishaps unless it can be shown that there was a deliberate attempt to cause harm. The proposed amendments would provide similar assurance in cases where injured parties have entered a property to commit a criminal act, or if the subject property is not intended for public use.
The latter includes vacant or undeveloped land, golf courses outside of operational hours, utility corridors and rights-of-way, private roads, agricultural lands, and forested or natural terrain. Although construction sites are not specifically identified for limited occupiers’ liability provisos, an associated proposed amendment defines unauthorized entry onto a construction site as a criminal act.
If successfully amended, the Petty Trespasses Act will be renamed the Trespass Act and will loosen conditions for presuming a breach has occurred. Currently, in cases where sites are not fully enclosed against possible public access, it is not deemed a violation unless intruders have been warned, verbally or in writing, in advance of entry.
Under proposed new rules, warnings would not be required if properties are partially enclosed and/or contain indicators advising against unauthorized access, or if they are designated in the legislation as areas not for public access. The latter includes construction sites, residential lawns/gardens, farmyards and farm equipment storage sites, cropland and pastures, fishponds, beehives and aviaries.
“The proposed changes would align with legislation in other jurisdictions, and would discourage confrontations between landowners and trespassers while making the law easier to enforce,” the Manitoba government’s accompanying release states.