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Two-Minute MBE Question: Torts (trespass) 

Here, we discuss how to approach the following Torts MBE question in two minutes. Read the question below then check out the YouYube video below for an answer explanation in less than two minutes!

Torts MBE Question:

A man was building a home on a vacant piece of land. The man wanted to remove tree roots that stretched from a tree stump in the neighbor’s yard to his own yard. The man decided to dig beneath the neighbor’s yard and remove the tree roots.  The digging caused no impact on the neighbor’s land, and it did not interfere with the neighbor’s use or enjoyment of his land. Nonetheless, the neighbor sued the man for trespass.

Which party is likely to prevail?

(A) The man, because his decision to remove tree stump roots was reasonable.
(B) The man, because he did not interfere with the use and enjoyment of the neighbor’s property.
(C) The neighbor, because the man intentionally entered the neighbor’s property without permission.
(D) The neighbor, because the man did not give reasonable notice to the neighbor of his intent to dig up the tree roots.

Torts MBE Video Answer Explanation:

Looking for the written answer explanation? 

You can find the answer to the Torts MBE question in the video above or the text below.  Just click “SHOW ANSWER”

(C) is the correct answer. A trespass is the intentional invasion of the land of another. The man intentionally invaded the land of another (his neighbor). Invading the land a reasonable distance above or below the land “counts” as a trespass. So even if the man was not walking on top of the neighbor’s land, digging under the land counts. Thus, the man is liable for trespass, and the neighbor is likely to prevail in the dispute.

(A) is incorrect because reasonableness is not a defense to an intentional tort. It makes no difference in this case whether the man’s actions were reasonable as he intentionally invaded the land of another.

(B) is incorrect. This is language that you may see in a nuisance question (i.e., if one substantially and unreasonably interferes with the use and enjoyment of another’s land, one may be liable for nuisance). Here, though, the question is whether the man is liable for trespass.

(D) is incorrect because notice that one is going to commit a tort does not make the commission of the tort okay! Notice would not change the result. For example, if A said, “I’m going to punch you in the face,” to B (and if A thereafter punched B), A would still be liable for battery. (Note: if the man received the neighbor’s consent, that would change the result, but notice does not!)


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