The gist of trespass to personalty is an injury to, or interference with, possession, unlawfully, with or without the exercise of physical force. A trespass is usually regarded as an intentional tort in the sense that it involves an intent to commit an act which violates a property right, or would be practically certain to have that effect, although the actor may not know that the act he intends to commit is such a violation. Unless the intended act would violate a property right, the actor's liability for unintended consequences ordinarily depends upon proof of negligence.
Appellant landowners brought an action against appellee golf course for damages caused by golf balls spiking their adjoining property. Appellants claimed that appellee trespassed and was negligent in its design of the course. Judgment was initially entered in favor of appellants in a justice of the peace court. The County Court at Law No. 2, Dallas County (Texas), after a bench trial de novo, entered judgment in favor of appellee golf course. Appellant landowners challenged the trial court's order.
Was appellee negligent in redesigning the golf course?
The court of appeals affirmed the judgment of the county court. In so ruling, the court of appeals held that appellants failed to show that appellee or the individual golfers intentionally caused the golf balls to damage appellants' property. Instead, the court noted that individual golfers were intending to hit the ball towards a hole, and the fact that the ball sliced or hooked onto appellants' properties was an unintended consequence. The court of appeals held that appellee was not negligent in its design of the golf course, because it was designed so that golfers would have to hit away from appellants' properties.