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The Peril of the Attractive Nuisance

The Peril of the Attractive Nuisance

The pretty fountain you installed to make your property more attractive. The old car you’ve been meaning to have towed away. The swimming pool you worked hard to afford for your family to enjoy.  All of these may be considered “attractive nuisances”.

If you think that sounds like a bad thing, you would be right. So what is an attractive nuisance, what are the consequences of having one, and what can you do about it?

What Determines An Attractive Nuisance

An attractive nuisance is something that may exist on your personal or business property. It is usually an artificial object, and may have gone unnoticed by you because it has become part of the landscape.

Children can always spot an attractive nuisance. They look at the world with different eyes, and a hole in the fence may become the gateway to a different world. An abandoned chest freezer may become a rocket ship. A swimming pool looks inviting on a hot day.

As a legal definition, the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine has 5 parts:

  • You know there are children around who might trespass on your property.
  • You know children may be at risk of injury if they enter your property.
  • The children are too young to recognize the risks posed by being on your property.
  • You can fix the problem for a reasonable cost.
  • You have done nothing to fix the problem.

When these 5 conditions exist, the landowner is considered legally liable for the injury or death of a child on their premises.

The state of California did away with the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine in 1970, but replaced it with the idea that a landowner may be held liable for injury to anyone, including children, who trespass on their premises.

Examples of Attractive Nuisances

Typically an attractive nuisance is a man-made item that can or should in some way be secured or disabled so as to protect young children from injury or death. Some items on this list may surprise you, but not all attractive nuisances are easily recognizable. They include:

  • Swimming pools.
  • Fountains or ponds.
  • Swing sets and other playground equipment.
  • Trampolines.
  • Tree houses.
  • Vehicles, but particular non working or abandoned vehicles.
  • Discarded household appliances (washers, dryers, refrigerators, freezers)
  • Holes in the ground.
  • Farm equipment.
  • Construction sites.

How You Can Protect Yourself

Back yard items such as swimming pools, tree houses and trampolines can be secured by fences and locked gates. For older children who can read, safety rules for the use of these items should be posted.

Holes should be filled as soon as possible, vehicles should be locked or otherwise secured. Old appliances should be secured by removing doors or disabling hinges so they cannot be opened, or will not stay closed.

Farm equipment should be stored securely when not in use. Keys should be placed out of the way and blocks used to keep larger equipment from rolling. Construction sites should be secured with fencing and locked gates. Construction equipment should be stored properly.

Homeowners and Commercial General Liability policies can offer legal protection in case of an accident, but ridding your property of these attractive nuisances is always the best option. Your insurance company may require inspection of the premises as a condition of your policy. If not, talk to your broker to get a referral for a safety inspection for your home or business.

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