An "attractive nuisance" is something on your property that draws children in but threatens them with harm. These types of things can be considered a premises liability. A premises liability is when you allow a dangerous condition to occur on your property. These are under the umbrella of personal injury law.
The law places a special responsibility on you to take steps to protect children who may come onto your property. This duty is generally called the "attractive nuisance doctrine."
Typically, the attractive nuisance doctrine has three components:
Yes. Trespassing children would be any minors that come onto your property uninvited. However, the law will likely punish you if they get hurt, instead of treating them like a trespasser. This is because minors tend to get special care under the law.
Child trespassers on a landowner's property can be frustrating. If they get hurt, you can be the one in trouble. If you discover kids on your property, you have to provide "reasonable care."
To do this, you should immediately:
An attractive nuisance is something interesting that would entice a child into entering another's property. Although this may sound very broad, most courts limit this considerably.
For instance, many courts require that the object be man-made, and many require that you "maintain" the nuisance to be liable.
Non-maintained items that are not legally attractive nuisances are:
Take reasonable precautions to keep everyone safe. If there is an alarm you need to maintain, make sure you do so. Not keeping up with alarms and batteries can put everyone at risk. If you have an alarm that malfunctions during a fire or carbon monoxide poisoning, then the alarm company may be liable instead of you.
Also, most courts understand that small children can hurt themselves on virtually anything. The law generally presumes that children understand some dangers, such as:
If a child is too young to understand these risks, they should be supervised by a parent or guardian. The guardian is responsible for taking reasonable steps to keep them off your property or away from safety risks.
Typical attractive nuisances that can make a homeowner responsible for injuries include:
*Attractive nuisances can also take less obvious forms, such as a rooftop. You may be liable if:
Each case will be carefully examined to decide if you are responsible or not. This can be a grey area and outcomes can be hard to predict, so take extra precautions when it comes to attractive nuisances.
What constitutes a "child" differs from court to court. Keep in mind that teenagers or people under 18 may still be considered children in many courts. Attractive nuisance liability is not limited just to very young children.
There are three main ways to protect yourself:
You are never required to childproof your property. However, taking some basic actions to prevent injury goes a long way toward avoiding liability. Courts tend to punish people who didn't seem to care or put any effort into encouraging safety.
If you can list the steps you took to prevent injury, many courts will be satisfied, even if they didn't ultimately work.
Examples of steps to take for pool owners include:
Read and follow your state and local laws. If they are confusing or hard to understand, call up an attorney or insurance agent. Your insurance agent will usually have a list of potential items that may be attractive nuisances on your property and have advice for protecting yourself.
There are inevitably a host of local regulations that govern almost any potential attractive nuisance (such as pools). Showing a court that you were abiding by the local law can be decisive in most cases.
Always use common sense and good judgment. You cannot be too careful about protecting yourself from blame.
If you see children interested in something on your property, that alone can trigger liability. People could prove that you're aware the children are interested. If you notice local kids showing interest in something, you can:
Do whatever you can to warn children or keep the item of interest out of their reach. Document everything you have done.
You can also look out for children in your neighborhood by reporting any obvious dangers to the property owner and your local authorities if need be.
Warning or safety signs are helpful but generally won't save you by themselves. You must take steps to prevent the children from gaining access to an attractive nuisance.
Children are particularly drawn to things like swimming pools, tunnels, machinery, and other potentially dangerous items.
If you forget to secure these types of items, and a neighboring child's curiosity leads to injury (or worse), you may be subject to legal action. If you have questions or concerns, consider speaking with a local real estate attorney.