An unlawful act committed with violence, ti et armis, to the person, property or relative rights of another. Every felony includes a trespass, in common parlance, such acts are not in general considered as trespasses, yet they subject the offender to an action of trespass after his conviction or acquittal. There is another kind of trespass, which is committed without force, and is known by the name of trespass on the case. This is not generally known by the name of trespass.
The following rules characterize the injuries which are denominated trespasses, namely: 1. To determine whether an injury is a trespass, due regard must be had to the nature of the right affected. A wrong with force can only be offered to the absolute rights of personal liberty and security, and to those of property corporeal; those of health, reputation and in property incorporeal, together with the relative rights of persons, are, strictly speaking, incapable of being injured with violence, because the subject-matter to which they relate, exists in either case only in idea, and is not to be seen or handled. An exception to this rule, however, often obtains in the very instance of injuries to the relative rights of persons; and wrongs offered to these last are frequently denominated trespasses, that is, injuries with force.
Those wrongs alone are characterized as trespasses the immediate consequences of which are injurious to the plaintiff; if the damage sustained is a remote consequence of the act, the injury falls under the denomination of trespass on the case.
No act is injurious but that which is unlawful; and therefore, where the force applied to the plaintiff's property or person is the act of the law itself, it constitutes no cause of complaint.
remedies. The name of an action, instituted for the recovery of damages, for a wrong committed against the plaintiff, with immediate force; as an assault and battery against the person; an unlawful entry into his, land, and an unlawful injury with direct force to his personal property. It does not lie for a mere non-feasance, nor when the matter affected was not tangible. The subject will be considered with regard, 1. To the injuries for which trespass may be sustained. 2. The declaration. 3. The plea. 4. The judgment.
This part of the subject will be considered with reference to injuries, 1. The person. 2. To personal property. 3. To real property. 4. When trespass can or cannot be justified by legal proceedings.
Trespass is the proper remedy for an assault and battery, wounding, imprisonment, and the like, and it also lies for an injury to the relative rights when occasioned by force; as, for beating, wounding, and imprisoning a wife or servant, by which the plaintiff has sustained a loss.
The action of trespass is the proper remedy for injuries to personal property, which may be committed by the several acts of unlawfully striking, chasing, if alive, and carrying away to the damage of the plaintiff, a personal chattel, Executors, of which another is the owner and in possession; but a naked possession or right to immediate possession, is a sufficient title to support this action. Trespass is the proper remedy for the several acts of breaking through an enclosure, and coming into contact with any corporeal hereditament, of which another is the owner and in possession, and by which a damage has ensued. There is an ideal fence, reaching in extent upwards, a superficie terrae usque ad caelum, which encircles every man's possessions, when he is owner of the surface, and downwards as far as his property descends; the entry, therefore, is breaking through this enclosure, and this generally constitutes, by itself, a right of action. The plaintiff must be the owner, and in possession. There must have been some injury, however, to entitle the plaintiff to recover, for a man in a balloon may legally be said to break the close of the plaintiff, when passing over it, as he is wafted by the wind, yet as the owner's possession is not by that act incommoded, trespass could not probably be maintained; yet, if any part of the machinery were to fall upon the land, the aeronaut could not justify an entry into it to remove it, which proves that the act is not justifiable. But the slightest injury, as treading down the grass, is sufficient.
It is a general rule that when the defendant has acted under regular process of a court of competent jurisdiction, or of a single magistrate having jurisdiction of the subject-matter, it is a sufficient justification to him; but when the court has no jurisdiction and the process is wholly void, the defendant cannot justify under it.
But there are some cases, where an officer will not be justified by the warrant or authority of a court, having jurisdiction. These exceptions are generally founded on some matter of public policy or convenience; for example, when a warrant was issued against a mail carrier, though the officer was justified in serving the warrant, he was liable to an indictment for detaining such mail carrier under the warrant, for by thus detaining him, he was guilty of "wilfully obstructing or retarding the passage of the mail, or of the driver or carrier," contrary to the provisions of the act of Congress of 1825,
The declaration should contain a concise statement of the injury complained of, whether to the person, personal or real property, and it must allege that the injury was conimitted vi et armis and contra pacem; in which particulars it differs from a declaration in case.
The general issue is not guilty. But as but few matters can be given in evidence under this plea, it is proper to plead special matters of defence.
The judgment is generally for the damages assessed by the jury, and for costs. When the judgment is for the defendant, it is that be recover his costs.