Veiseh v. StappAnnotate this Case
California case law establishes that "lawful possession" simply means actual, peaceful possession and a person with actual possession can sue for trespass even if he or she does not have any legal rights in the land. After plaintiff transferred the real property at issue to a custodian for the benefit of his minor daughter under the California Uniform Transfers to Minors Act, he maintained possession and control of the real property for his own use and benefit, rather than the use and benefit of his daughter. The trial court found that plaintiff's actions were not consistent with the statute and he had no right of lawful possession in the real property.
The Court of Appeal reversed and held that plaintiff's failure to comply with the Act did not render his possession of the real property unlawful for purposes of California trespass law. In this case, the general definition of lawful possession applies because, among other things, nothing in the text of the statute or the record supported the inference that the legislation was enacted to protect trespassers or otherwise define who could pursue a cause of action for trespass. Therefore, the court held that the trial court's explicit findings about plaintiff's possession and control were sufficient to establish the lawful possession element of his trespass claim. The court remanded for further proceedings.