Owning property comes with a lot of responsibility – and can open you up to legal liability if you aren’t careful. Whether you own a home or run a business, the last thing you want is for someone to get hurt on your premises and sue you for negligence. In order to protect yourself from suit – and those around you from harm – you must understand the legal concept of attractive nuisances, and how to neutralize their danger.
What is an attractive nuisance?
An attractive nuisance is something on your premises that seems enticing to small children, and that could lead to a serious injury. For example, if you have a swimming pool, a large pile of dirt, horses or a water fountain, you can expect that passing children will likely attempt to play with these things.
Under our legal system, small children are typically immune from trespassing. In other words, even if they encroach upon your property uninvited to play with the attractive nuisance, and they are hurt by it, you cannot use their trespass as a defense to a possible lawsuit like you usually could against an adult.
Instead, the law expects property owners to take into account the likelihood of trespassing children and take steps to keep them safe regardless.
What you can do about it
The doctrine of attractive nuisance provides courts with several factors to consider when deciding whether the premises owner is responsible for the injury of the child. For example, the court will take into consideration the child’s age and ability to comprehend the danger.
Importantly, the court will also take into account your efforts to prevent the harm as they decide whether you exercised reasonable care. If they determine that you did everything that was feasible to deter children from accessing the dangerous condition, and they do so anyway, then you may not be liable.
Examples of measures of reasonable care that you could take include physical barriers such as fences, warning signs, cameras, lights and other safety measures. If you see a child on your property and take steps to warn them of the danger and lead them away from it to safety, that can go a long way in proving to the court that you were aware of the danger and tried to mitigate it.
A negligence lawsuit can be devastating to any business or home owner. Make sure you are aware of possible dangers to children on your property and take steps to make them as safe as possible for your sake, and for the sake of the children.