Exploring Premises Liability and the “Attractive Nuisance” Doctrine

In some cases, property owners can be held liable for injuries that occur to people on their property. Under the “attractive nuisance” doctrine, a property owner can be held responsible if a child is injured on the owner’s property due to some type of artificial condition located on the property that is particularly appealing to children. The following will provide more information about the attractive nuisance doctrine.  

What is the “attractive nuisance” doctrine?

The “attractive nuisance” doctrine states that property owners may be liable for injuries to children who trespass on their land if the injury results from a hazardous object or condition on the land that is likely to attract children who are unable to appreciate the specific risk posed by the object or condition.

Generally speaking, the attractive nuisance doctrine has three components:

  • The law does not expect children to fully comprehend the dangers they may face when entering the property of another.
  • If you think children might come onto your property, the law places a special responsibility on you to prevent harm to them.
  • If you fail to meet this responsibility, you will most likely be held liable for the child’s injuries.

What are some examples of attractive nuisances?

Attractive nuisances typically come in the form of artificial conditions on the land (i.e. man-made constructs). Some common examples of attractive nuisances include:

  • Swimming pools
  • Trampolines
  • Tree houses
  • Fountains
  • Machinery (lawnmowers, gasoline pumps, etc.)
  • Wells
  • Tunnels
  • Dangerous animals
  • Paths and stairs
  • Landscaping
  • Scaffolding 
  • Ladders
  • Broken gates or safety gates

What are not considered attractive nuisances?

It is important to note that not every condition located on a property owner’s land will be considered an attractive nuisance. Specifically, the following conditions are not considered attractive nuisances:

  • Ponds
  • Lakes
  • Cliffs
  • Hills
  • Small things that can pose choking hazards (i.e. acorns, sticks, etc.)
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning in a house or shed (unless you do not have a detector in your home)
  • Smoke inhalation (unless you do not have a working smoke alarm)
  • Trees that people fall out of (however, old trees on your property that fall on someone could make you liable)

What should I do if I notice a child trespassing on my property?

If a child gets injured on your property, you will likely be held liable. As such, you should take reasonable care regarding any child trespassers on your property. In order to exercise reasonable care in these situations, you should do the following as soon as you notice the child on your property:

  • Provide assistance to any child who has already been injured on the property.
  • Warn children of any dangerous conditions they might not discover on their own.
  • Kindly ask them to leave or lead them off the property.
  • Talk to their parents if possible and calmly ask the parents to keep the child from entering the property.
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