The law recognizes that children aren’t just small adults—they’re curious by nature and lack the intellectual development and maturity to appreciate certain risks the way that adults do. Does that mean that property owners have to take extra steps to protect children from hazards and injuries even though the children are trespassing?
In some cases, yes.
Most of the time, property owners aren’t required to look out for the safety of trespassers, but there are some exceptions in the law. One of those exceptions applies to trespassing children who are lured onto the property by what is called an “attractive nuisance.” Premise liability laws define an attractive nuisance as anything that, simply by its nature, would lure children over and expose them to risk of harm.
What sort of things are considered attractive nuisances? Some things are probably more common than others, but there are few top contenders:
— Backyard pools, hot tubs and trampolines
— Jungle gyms and playground equipment
— Old cars and abandoned appliances, like refrigerators, stoves or washers
— Tree houses, play forts and sandboxes
— Piles of construction materials, including those recently ripped out of a home during a remodel
— Old wells, abandoned sheds or other unattended and unlocked structures
If a property owner knew that the hazard was attracting children because he or she had chased uninvited children away from the object before, that’s a good sign that he or she should have taken steps to prevent a tragedy or serious accident from occurring. Even if he or she hadn’t ever chased an errant child away from the area before, if it seems obvious that a child would be attracted to the hazard, the property owner had a civic duty to try to minimize the danger.
For example, people with backyard pools often put up fences to keep out children. They should also take steps like making sure that retractable ladders are raised and locked (for above-ground pools) when the pool isn’t in use, making it hard for a child to gain access. In-ground pools should be gated and the gate should be locked when nobody is around.
Similarly, just putting a secured tarp over construction waste that’s piling up in a backyard while waiting disposal could reduce the chances that a child would see the materials and get injured playing “builder” with them.
If your child was injured due to an attractive nuisance, consider contacting an attorney for assistance.
Source: FindLaw, “Property Owners’ Legal Duty to Prevent Injury,” accessed Dec. 16, 2016