The Florida attractive nuisance doctrine is an exception to the trespassing rule. It holds property owners responsible for injuries to children who are tempted to trespass by the presence of an object that is attractive to them. The law mentions specific dangerous objects as:
- Ice boxes
- Freezer lockers
- Any other airtight unit without the door removed. An example would be a locking trunk.
The above are not the only items that are considered attractive nuisances. Swimming pools, man-made ponds and fountains, leaning ladders, lawn tractors, power tools, trampolines and abandoned vehicles have all been deemed by the courts as attractive nuisances that lured children into trespassing.
With the summer heat quickly approaching in Florida, people are breaking out their sunscreen and bathing suits. For most Floridians, there is nothing more enjoyable than cooling off in a pool. However, as relaxing as the pool is, it also creates very dangerous risks for bodily harm. The list of dangers that a pool exposes a child are endless. Due to their young age, children will often either ignore or fail to recognize certain dangers, such as a slippery deck or the depth of the pool.
Unfortunately, many Florida residents fail to take the minimum safety measures that could prevent injuries or death to a child. For example, a resident might build a water slide in their front yard with no fencing or barricades preventing trespassers from it. When this resident leaves the slide unattended, a child could foreseeably enter the land and use the slide. If that child is injured as a result thereof, the landowner is likely liable for the injuries.
The Attractive Nuisance Doctrine
Because landowners are typically immune to negligence based causes of actions when a trespasser is injured on their land, there are certain exceptions to that general rule. Florida lawmakers put in place certain circumstances in which a landowner is liable for injuries to a child trespassing onto their land.
Generally, a land owner may be responsible for a child trespasser’s injuries if:
- The property owner knows or has reason to know that the place where a dangerous condition exists is one where a child may trespass;
- The dangerous condition is known to or should be known to cause unreasonable risk of harm to a child;
- The child, because of their young age, does not realize the risk involved with the dangerous condition;
- The burden of eliminating the danger is less than the risk posed to a child; and
- The property owner fails to act with reasonable care to remove the danger or protect the child from the risk of danger.
SEE 41 Fla Jur Premises Liability § 66
The exceptions listed above are commonly known as Florida’s version of the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine. The Attractive Nuisance Doctrine is a legal theory that protects children who wander onto another’s land and are injured by a dangerous condition that the landowner created. This doctrine is a negligence based theory that holds landowners to a higher standard when they create an artificial condition on their land. Due the child’s young age, it is found that kids fail to appreciate the risks that certain conditions pose. Because certain conditions, like a ferris wheel, are exciting to a child, it is reasoned that children are “trapped” by this excitement and ignore the risks it exposes them to.
What is considered an “attractive nuisance”?
The conditions on the premises that may be considered an attractive nuisance fall within general principles regarding dangerous conditions on premises. This determination is ultimately a question of fact for a jury to decide. What this means is that there is no set list of certain activities or conditions that are considered an attractive nuisance. However, Florida courts have established that for this condition to be deemed an attractive nuisance, it must be considered dangerous while revealing some type of trapping element to the child. For example, in Ansin v. Thurston, 98 So. 2d 87, the court found that a wooden deck extending to the water, coupled with the presence of a raft prone to tipping, was an attractive nuisance. Thus, every situation is different and liability in these situations rests on the facts and circumstances of every case.
What steps should landowners take?
Landowners should always be aware of any dangerous condition on their property. If there is anything on your land that could foreseeably injure someone, the landowner should take reasonable steps to either fix or warn others of the danger. This could include building a fence, erecting warning signs or eliminating the danger altogether if at all possible. Not only will these precautions alleviate risks of liability for the landowner, it also creates a safer community for others.
Residents who live in a neighborhood surrounded with lots of families should be well aware of the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine. With the many communities in Florida, this is a large number of people. Children do not often understand the legal consequences of trespassing onto another’s property. Landowners should always be aware of children in their community and take every precaution necessary. Landowners and neighbors should also be on the lookout for any children wandering onto other’s property, as well.
Protecting Yourself from Liability
To reduce the chances of an injury and liability on your property, several steps can be taken. First be sure that you are complying with all state laws and local ordinances. Most towns and cities have separate attractive nuisance codes. Put away any equipment when not in use. Put up fencing and keep all gates and doors locked. Put up warning or no trespassing signs. Remove doors from old unwanted appliances and have them removed immediately. Inform adult neighbors of any tempting situations that may be present on your property. If passing children stop and stare at something on your property that is a warning signal that a possible attraction exists. None of these steps will eliminate the liability but they will reduce the chances of an accident occurring. The age of a child has been defined differently in various courts. It does not always apply to younger children and may even include teens.
CONTACT DOLMAN LAW GROUP
If you or a loved one have been injured due to the negligence of a landowner, contact the attorneys at the Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA for a free consultation of any rights you may have. The personal injury attorneys at the Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA are well versed with Florida’s premise liability law and will fight to get the compensation you need and deserve. Call 727-451-6900 today.
Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756