The law has traditionally recognized the vulnerability of children to harm and imposed a duty on adults to protect children from unreasonably dangerous conditions. Courts have also considered public policy issues, such as how best to foster personal responsibility and control “attractive nuisances” that pose an unreasonable risk of harm to children.
If a child wanders into your yard to investigate a shiny new lawnmower, trampoline or swimming pool and gets hurt or killed in the process; you could be liable. All of those things are generally attractive (if dangerous) to curious children.
What is an attractive nuisance?
The attractive nuisance doctrine says that property owners can be liable for injuries caused by trespassing children, even if the property is not intended to attract children and the child had no business being on the property in the first place. These attractive nuisances are usually considered man-made objects that require that someone maintain them. A swimming pool is a common example.
This doctrine exists because of the number of cases in which attractive nuisances lure children onto the property and then cause serious or fatal injuries that could have been avoided if only the landowner had taken simple precautions.
Ways to provide reasonable care
A property owner is legally obligated to exercise reasonable care to prevent someone from being injured due to an attractive nuisance. Examples of what might be considered reasonable care include:
- Installing a lock on your gate and using it
- Posting warning signs against trespassers
- Proactively telling parents and children to stay off the property
- Asking the child to leave and escorting them off your property
- Tarping or otherwise securing dangerous items out of sight
These are all efforts that demonstrate that the property owner was doing everything that they could to ensure that the child was safe. Despite all efforts, the child was injured or killed of their own accord.
Was your child injured by an attractive nuisance?
Not every property owner will be diligent about their obligations. If you or your child were injured due to a property owner’s negligence, you may have a right to fair compensation for your losses.