Attractive Nuisance Doctrine: Cases Involving Trespassing Children Injured By Attractive Items On Property
Although your child can begin to understand what you mean when you say the stove is hot by 18 months, he or she will not be able to fully comprehend and perceive the actual danger until the age of 5 or so. Children cannot perceive dangers as well as adults, as their minds are not fully developed. As a result, it is not uncommon for children to walk into dangerous situations after being attracted by shiny objects or other attractions. This is where the attractive nuisance doctrine comes into play.
Understanding What the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine Entails
The attractive nuisance doctrine is under tort law and holds property owners responsible for any injuries trespassing children have sustained as a result of being attracted to a hazardous, yet attractive object on the property. The definition for an attractive item is quite vague and broad. It can include anything from abandoned cars, trampolines, swimming pools and any other type of junk that may look like fun. It is up to the interpretation of the judge and a personal injury attorney. Your attorney will need to provide evidence regarding how the attraction constitutes as an attractive nuisance.
This doctrine basically recognizes children are incapable of perceiving dangers and making sound decisions because of their maturity. Dangerous objects and items may appear like an invitation for play. As a result, property owners should be diligent in exercising reasonable care and caution in removing these attractions from their property or from safeguarding the supposed attractions to prevent them from luring children into dangerous situations.
The Conditions To Be Met
In order for the attractive nuisance doctrine to be used in court by a personal injury attorney to collect compensation for medical injuries sustained, several specific conditions and criteria must be met. There must be:
- A high likelihood the children would have access or would visit the property. In short, the property owners are well aware children can easily trespass.
- An 'attraction' on the property capable of causing bodily harm, and even death.
- An understanding that an attraction on the property would have been enticing for young children.
- Proof the property owners were not diligent in safeguarding the exposed attraction away from children for the purpose of play, amusement or even gratification of youthful curiosity. Putting up signs alerting children of the possible dangers ahead may not be sufficient – especially if the injured child is not able to read yet.
- Details regarding how it would be reasonably practical and easy to prevent children from accessing the 'attraction'.
- Evidence to show that the condition or burden of removing the attraction would be slight in comparison to the extent and severity of the injuries that could be caused by the attraction.
Keep in mind there's no exact limit or cutoff for the age defined as youth. The judge can use his or her own discretion to determine whether the doctrine applies to each individual case. This will include whether the injured child has the mental ability to fully comprehend the dangerous hazards on the property.
Previously, the plaintiff, who is generally the parent of the injured child, would have to prove the attraction lured the child onto the property. However, as of recent, most jurisdictions only require that the injury was foreseeable when applying the attractive nuisance doctrine.
If your child is unable to perceive dangers and have been injured as a result, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the property owner seeking compensation for medical bills and other expenses. Speak with a personal injury attorney to determine more information about your specific case, look at sufficient evidence for a case and decide whether the circumstances of the doctrine pertain to your situation.