Legal Question in Real Estate Law in New York

chain across driveway

i recently bought approx 1 acre of vacant property in upstate ny. i will be building a cabin on the lot in a few years. i posted the property with no trespassing signs. and at the opening of the driveway i put a chain between two trees across the driveway with a no trespassing sign as well as put 4 orange marker ribbons on the chain. is doing this a liability issue or is this ok? the span is about 15 feet across. the chain is on my property and well marked.

Asked on 2/09/06, 10:27 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

John Corbett Corbett Law Firm LLC
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Re: chain across driveway

Barriers are always a liability issue. The question is a matter of degree. You have correctly anticipated that there is a visibility issue. It also is significant that you have constructed a warning of the boundary rather than a trap.

There has been litigation involving issues over what type of obstructions are appropriate especially over and around pathways, roads, and trails. The gist of most of this is that you cannot rely on private ownership to give you the right to set up what is essentially a trap. The cautious view of the law is that, in spite of the fact that you have the legal right to exclude trespassers even using reasonable force, you have to anticipate that there might be trespassers. Some states follow the traditional view that you need not warn trespassers (except young ones) of even known hazards, but you can't set a trap for them. Some States follow a more recent view that even trespassers are entitled to reasonable warning of known hazards. Frankly, I would have to look up the current position that New York takes myself.

As it happens, I also own some undeveloped land in New York State. My approach is to mark everything that crosses trails very prominently. I like gates in preference to chains, but on the one occasion that I have used a chain temporarily, I marked it as you have and also affixed it so that it would break loose if it was hit with any substantial force. I did this because a neighbor was almost accidentally decapitated on someone else's land by running into a piece of barbed wire while riding on an ATV.

If you want the reading on current NY law, try asking the same question in the NY personal injury area.

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Answered on 2/10/06, 12:47 am
Phroska L. McAlister PHROSKA LEAKE McALISTER
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Re: chain across driveway

Good legal answer from atty Corbett.

But would also add that you should contact the local authorities in the area or situs of your property and ASK them, what the procedures are for doing what you wish to do, in order to protect your property interests.

Go to the Town Hall, County Seat, Sheriffs, Property management office, etc.. Talk to the locals, then follow up with where they tell you to go and what they tell you to do. Investigate other similiar situations of property owners in the area.

Note, there may be unrecorded easements and land "use, practices and habits" in the area that you can find out about only from the locals.

Good luck,

Phroska L. McAlister,ESQ

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Answered on 2/11/06, 11:24 am

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