The attractive nuisance doctrine makes a property owner liable for leaving a condition or object on his property that attracts and then injures a child. Under the doctrine, a landowner may be liable for injuries even if the child is trespassing and is on the property illegally. In some states, the doctrine has been replaced by laws governing specific conditions, such as swimming pools.
What Are Some Examples of Attractive Nuisances?
- Swimming pools
- Machinery and tractors
- Abandoned appliances and equipment
- Building sites
What Are the Basic Elements of Attractive Nuisance?
- A potentially dangerous condition exists on the property
- The landowner created or maintained the potential hazard
- The landowner should have known the condition would attract children
- The landowner should have known the condition could harm children
How Can I Tell If There Is an Attractive Nuisances on My Land?
An attractive nuisance can be distinguished if it is a kind of dangerous artificial condition that exists on the property in which is not so obvious to a trespasser child A landowner will not be liable for obvious dangerous conditions on their property in which a child can easily understand the dangerous condition. In addition, a landowner will not be liable for any natural dangerous conditions on the property such as lakes, ponds.
However, if the dangerous condition is something on the property in which the landowner created himself such as machinery, hidden stairs, or man-made holes and the landowner knows a child would not notice this condition, then the landowner must take all reasonable safety measures to at least warn of the dangerous condition that exists.
What Precautions Can I Take against Liability for Attractive Nuisance?
Look out for possible trespassers: Courts do not require that property be child injury proof, but an effort should be able to keep children away from dangerous property, particularly if the property owner knows or should have reason to know that children are attracted to something on the property. Fences and locks are recommended, since some judges have ruled that if a child is old enough to climb a fence and break a lock, the child should be old enough to understand the consequences.
Give notice: If you see a child on your property, immediately order the child off your property. Inform the parents or guardians, in writing if possible, that children should not be on the property because of safety hazards.
Post warning signs: Signs and warnings may be helpful, although not to the degree that locks and fences are. First, some children may not be old enough to read or comprehend the warning given. Second, some children find the signs and warnings themselves an attractive nuisance (the “I dare you to do it!” variety of attraction)
Minimize the risk: One of the elements that the courts looks at to determine whether a landowner is liable for a dangerous condition on property is the precautions and safety measures the landlord could have taken to minimize the risk. If the landowner could have prevent injury at a low or minimal cost, but failed to do so than the landowner will more likely be held liable for an injury.
Follow all applicable state and local laws: The easiest way for a lawyer to prove negligence is to find a statute that was not followed. Showing the court that you complied with local safety law may prove that you were not negligent and took reasonable steps to prevent injury.
Use common sense: If you see something on your land that is or can create a dangerous condition and children would be interested in coming on your property because of it, lock it up or fence it up to prevent children gaining access to your property.
How Old Must the Child Be for the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine to Apply?
Since “attractive nuisance” is typically a judicial doctrine (it might be absent from statutes), there is rarely a set age. Applying “attractive nuisance” is decided on a case by case basis, although there are a few general guidelines:
- If a child is old enough to climb a fence, the child is old enough to understand the consequences
- If a child is ordered by an adult not to enter the property, the order may disable the doctrine from being used
- Teenagers are generally less likely to trigger the doctrine than extremely young children
Do I Need a Lawyer for a Attractive Nuisance Case?
If your child has been injured, you should contact a personal injury attorney immediately. You may be able to recover losses for your child’s injuries. Or, if a child has been injured while on your property, a personal injury lawyer can determine whether a defense is available.