Children are naturally curious, especially about unfamiliar objects or environments. This sense of wonder can sometimes draw them onto other people’s property, not knowing that they are putting themselves at risk. Although the child was trespassing, liability could fall on the property owner if the child suffers harm.
A brief overview of the attractive nuisance doctrine
An attractive nuisance is any object or condition on a property that is likely to attract children but may also cause them harm. Attractive nuisances are so interesting that they cannot refrain from trespassing to examine the object.
Because their minds are still developing, young children are not fully capable of understanding risks and how to control their impulses. The law then puts the responsibility on property owners to secure their premises to avoid putting children in harm’s way.
Having unusually attractive objects on the property can appear as an unspoken invitation for children to enter. As a result, homeowners must treat children the same as invitees, to whom they owe a duty of care. If the child sustains injuries due to the property owner’s failure to secure the attractive nuisance, the owner could be accountable for damages.
Examples of attractive nuisances
The following are examples of common attractive nuisances found in homes:
- Swimming pools
- Machinery and equipment
- Hot tubs
- Construction sites
New and exciting objects can draw a child in, especially when no adults are around. However, they could drown, slip, fall or injure themselves. This highlights the importance of keeping attractive nuisances inaccessible to potential trespassing children.
Can property owners avoid attractive nuisances?
Maintaining a safe environment for invitees does not mean homeowners have to give up amenities they enjoy. Rather, they should take reasonable precautions to restrict access to potentially hazardous areas. This could involve keeping property up to code, installing fences or locking up unattended spaces.
By inspecting their premises and determining how likely children might trespass, owners can strategize how to create a safer environment. This preventative measure not only helps protect children but may also help reduce the risk of liability for property owners.