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Attractive nuisances and the liability of property owners

On Behalf of | Mar 16, 2024 | Personal Injury

At some point, kids reach the age and maturity when parents have to let them out of their sight to explore their neighborhood and local areas on their own or with friends. Yet, despite parents’ warnings, they’re likely still going to get into some mischief.

Parents can only hope that other adults will exercise some caution and not make potentially dangerous things unreasonably accessible to the community’s youngest people. In some cases, as with swimming pools, there are laws governing precautionary measures that property owners are required to take to keep children out for their own safety.

What is an attractive nuisance?

The concept of “attractive nuisance” goes back at least to the 19th century. It’s basically any potentially dangerous feature on a property that a child may not be able to resist. Children’s brains aren’t fully formed, and they don’t have the life experience or judgment skills to make the determination that something could hurt them or to resist it even if they do realize that.

Attractive nuisances include a wide range of things. Familiar recreational features like swimming pools, treehouses and trampolines may seem like the most obvious ones. So are things that are too often left outside or in open garages, like old appliances, tools and toxic materials. Pets and other animals can be attractive nuisances. So can outdoor design features like sculptures, waterfalls and more.

Children generally aren’t considered trespassers under the law

While an adult who trespasses onto someone else’s property and suffers injuries often can’t hold the property owner liable (unless the property owner intentionally harms them) – at least, in most states – that generally doesn’t hold true for children. This is basically due to the fact that they aren’t held to the same standards of understanding that adults are.

Further, a property owner can be held liable for a child’s injuries suffered on their property – even if they were trespassing. There are some exceptions for “non-maintained” features. These are more likely to be present in the rural areas of the state. For example, if there’s a pond on your land, that might qualify. It’s wise to check your local ordinances.

Every situation is unique. As such, if your child has been injured by something that a property owner knew or should have known could be an attractive nuisance, it’s smart to get legal guidance to determine what your options are.