Damages may be recovered in an action for trespass even though those damages may be nominal. Sime v. Jensen, 7 N.W. 2d 325, 328 (Minn. 1942).
General Compensatory Damages
In a trespass claim, compensatory damages are measured by:
- The diminished value of the land or chattels,
- The cost of repair or restoration,
- The reasonable rental value of the property, or
- Mesne profits (the benefit the person in wrongful possession derived from wrongful occupation).
Snyder v. City of Minneapolis, 441 N.W.2d 781, 789 (Minn. 1989); Rector, Wardens & Vestry of St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church v. C.S. McCrossan, Inc., 235 N.W.2d 609, 611 (Minn. 1975); Martin v. Smith, 7 N.W. 2d 481, 483 (Minn. 1941).
Pain and Suffering
If a plaintiff shows a link between trespass and damages for pain and suffering, then those damages are available in addition to damages to the property. In Special Force Ministries v. WCCO Television, 584 N.W.2d 789, 793 (Minn. App. 1988), plaintiffs presented evidence relating to embarrassment when an undercover reporter from WCCO secretly videotaped activities in a hospital for mentally disabled persons that were later shown on TV during a news story.
The plaintiff can request and a court can enjoin continuing trespass. Lake Mille Lacs Inv. v. Payne, 401 N.W. 2d 387, 389 (Minn. App. 1987)
If there is proof of willful trespass and a plaintiff meets the statutory requirements of Minn. Stat. § 549.19 and .20, then punitive damages are available. If a trespass is accidental or the trespasser believes they had a right to occupy the property, then punitive damages would not apply.
Under Minnesota Stat. § 561.04, a plaintiff can obtain treble damages in certain situations, such as trespass to trees and agricultural products. Treble damages, under Section 561.04 and Section 548.05, are a substitute for punitive damages. Therefore one cannot seek exemplary damages under these statutes and punitive damages in the same lawsuit.