What Duties Do Landowners Owe Children?
Florida landowners generally don’t owe a duty of care to people who trespass on their property. The law makes an exception, however, for children. This exception is called the “attractive nuisance” doctrine, and it holds landowners responsible when children trespass onto the property because of an attractive object. If your child has been injured on someone’s property, you should meet with an attorney to discuss whether you have a valid legal claim.
The Attractive Nuisance Doctrine
Under Florida’s premises liability law, landowners owe no duty of care to people who enter or remain on the property without permission. With children, the law is different. Children do not generally appreciate that they shouldn’t trespass on someone’s property and they may not understand how to assess the danger of certain hazards. For this reason, the law sometimes allows trespassing children to receive compensation when they are injured.
To receive compensation under Florida’s attractive nuisance doctrine, you will need to show the following:
- The landowner either knew or had reason to know that there was a dangerous condition on the property where children might trespass
- The landowner knew or should have known that the dangerous conditions could cause an unreasonable risk of harm to children
- Due to age, the child did not realize the risks involved
- The utility of the dangerous hazard and the burden of removing it are slight when compared to the risk to the child
- The landowner failed to act with sufficient care to remove the danger or protect the child from it
For example, a property owner might have an old refrigerator which they are storing on their property. This object is an attractive nuisance, since children might be tempted to play with it. There is also a risk that a child could become stuck inside the refrigerator. Children probably do not appreciate this risk because of their age. Furthermore, a landowner could remove the risk by chaining the doors or laying the refrigerator on its belly so the doors can’t open.
What Are Attractive Nuisances?
Florida Statute § 823.08 identifies airtight units as “attractive nuisances,” but this list is not exhaustive. Other objects not named in the statute might qualify, since a court will analyze each specific situation based on its own facts. Some common objects that often qualify include:
- Swimming pools
- Locking trunks
- Equipment left out in the open
Property owners who live in neighborhoods with children should be especially careful to make sure that they address any attractive nuisances. Ideally, you should eliminate the danger entirely. For example, instead of leaving a refrigerator outside, you can lock it up inside a shed or haul it to the dump immediately. If you cannot completely eliminate a hazard, a property owner should take steps to protect children from it. In some situations, this might involve making it harder for children to trespass by fencing off your property.
Contact Earnhart Law
If your child suffered an injury, you should take immediate action to protect his or her legal rights. At Earnhart Law, our Delray Beach premises liability attorneys offer worried family members a sympathetic ear and caring legal guidance. To learn more about your options, please contact us to schedule a free initial consultation.