Last week we posted about David Freese’s Thanksgiving Day one car accident. That post was partially in response to Bill McClellan’s column about the accident. That column pointed out that when Freese’s vehicle swerved off the road it trespassed upon private property destroying a fence and striking 2 trees. Today the Post Dispatch concluded an interesting article on railroad fatalities by pointing out that Missouri has laws that require railroads to build fences to protect livestock, but that there are no such laws to protect people.
The connection that I see between these issues is the way those damages to property are treated by Missouri law.
If a person trespasses on someones property and injures or destroys any tree, rails or wood standing on the land of any other person §537.340 of the Revised Statues of Missouri requires the offending party to pay the owner of the property triple the value of the damaged property. If a person voluntarily throws down any fence §537.350 makes that person liable for double the amount of damages sustained.
When it comes to the Missouri law requiring Railroads to build fences to protect livestock, §389.650 not only makes the railroad liable for double the amount of all damages, but also requires the railroad to pay attorneys fees.
The Missouri Legislature by enacting these laws clearly created a public policy in this State that victims of wrongdoing are entitled to more than their actual losses and that wrongdoers should be held responsible for more than just their out of pocket expenses. Whether the injury is to the person – or to property- the law protects rights and provides remedies if the rights have been violated. That is what the laws are meant to do- that is what we help with.