What is the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine?
Florida is one of many states with an attractive nuisance doctrine, which is an important subcategory of premises liability law. It is intended to protect small children who are not mature enough to make responsible decisions about their own safety. When people live in an area with children, they are expected to share in the community’s responsibility to prevent unnecessary childhood injuries.
Under premises liability law, people can be held responsible for injuries suffered by visitors on property they own or rent. However, our responsibility towards trespassers on our land is very limited; basically, we are not allowed to deliberately hurt them except in self defense. Since trespassers are uninvited, we do not have a legal duty to provide for their safety.
The attractive nuisance doctrine is an important exception to this policy about trespassers. Children under the age of six are considered incapable of taking full responsibility for their own actions. For their safety, adults are expected to limit children’s access to anything on their property that is both dangerous and potentially attractive to children. Whether or not these children are invited is irrelevant.
Responsibilities under the Doctrine
If a person has something on their property that would interest small children, such as a swimming pool or a trampoline, he or she needs to make sure it is adequately protected. This can include a secure fence, a locked covering over the object, etc. Property owners are also expected to know about potential hazards on their property like wells or creeks, and keep children away from them.
If property owners fail to meet these obligations, children may be drawn onto their property by interest in the hazardous object and become injured. Property owners can then be held legally responsible for these injuries. This means the children’s parents can sue for medical bills, missed wages, and more.