Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Are Business Owners Legally Responsible for Dumpster Divers?

Originally published by highrank.

Many people have heard of dumpster divers–individuals who sort through refuse seeking useful or valuable items. In principle, dumpster diving is not always problematic. In these environmentally conscious times, reusing items and minimizing waste can be a good thing. For business owners, however, dumpster divers can create a slew of problems.

One of the biggest concerns for business owners is that unscrupulous dumpster divers will steal financial documents or personal identification information. They also may worry that they are liable for a dumpster divers’ illness or injury. The dumpster diver may create a distracting nuisance by blocking thoroughfares or littering while picking through trash. Business owners should be aware of their rights and responsibilities in each of these instances to protect their businesses from potential harm.

Legal Status of Dumpster Diving

If the trash receptacle is on private property, dumpster diving is illegal. Dumpster divers on private property can be charged with trespassing, and taking trash from private property may constitute theft. In many states and municipalities, however, dumpster diving is not illegal when a trash receptacle is located on public property. This is true in Houston, where dumpster diving was completely decriminalized in 2013. Based on this ruling, people can no longer receive citations for picking through publically accessible trash in Houston.

Liability Issues Arising From Dumpster Diving

Identity theft is a serious concern for many business owners. The 4th Amendment protects a person’s right to privacy, but it does not extend to anything that has been thrown away. Once documents are in publically accessible trash, anyone can look at them.

To prevent identity theft, businesses should take extra care to appropriately dispose of any sensitive materials. Employers should thoroughly shred any item that contains personal information and should not neglect receipts or other documents with payment information. Improper disposal of sensitive information could constitute negligence, and the business could be liable in the event of identity theft.

While many business owners are concerned that they can be held responsible if expired food or similar goods in their trash cause harm to a dumpster diver or if a dumpster diver is injured on their property, this is not usually the case. Unless the business has been negligent, they should not be responsible for a dumpster diver’s injuries or illness as a result of eating or using items that have been thrown away.

Nevertheless, business owners should seek legal representation if a dumpster diver becomes ill or sustains injury as a result of something in the business’ trash. An experienced attorney with expertise in personal injury law can help protect the business from false personal injury claims.

Tactics for Deterring Dumpster Divers

One of the best ways to prevent dumpster diving is to reduce accessibility to trash receptacles. If possible, keep receptacles on private property. Erect fences around the trash area, and clearly mark the area with “No Trespassing” signs. If you cannot put trash containers on private property, investing in a few strong locks will help deter dumpster divers.

Law enforcement can also be one of your biggest assets. If a dumpster diver trespasses on your property, contact police immediately. While it is legal for a person to sort through refuse on public property, police can still issue tickets for related issues. If a dumpster diver is loud or obtrusive in the process of dumpster diving, it may constitute disorderly conduct.


If you are a business owner dealing with problems caused by dumpster divers, consult a lawyer to protect your business. The attorneys at Houston’s Gordon, Elias, and Seely LLP offer free consultations. Contact us today to learn more about your rights, or call us toll-free at (800) 773-6770.

The post Are Business Owners Legally Responsible for Dumpster Divers? appeared first on Ges Injury Attorneys.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.

from Texas Bar Today
via Abogado Aly Website

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