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What Is the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine?

Joanow Legal Group Dec. 9, 2019

It is easy to think that the arrival of winter in Hermitage means that you can stop worrying about your kids. After all, the outdoor pools are all closed, so you do not have to worry about them drowning, right? Unfortunately, the cold weather does not always drive kids indoors. Rather, their play might introduce them to encounters with completely new hazards, such as frozen ponds and canals or ice-covered roofs and walkways.

You understand that your kids’ curiosity may often override whatever fears they may have of a particular attractive feature, yet you cannot be around them at all times to protect them. Your hope, then, is that the owners of the properties on which these attractions are found also foresee this, and thus take steps to protect your kids from them.

If they do not, the attractive nuisance doctrine may allow you to hold them liable if said attractions injure your child. Per the Cornell Law School, the attractive nuisance doctrine places the responsibility on property owners on which potentially dangerous attractions are found to protect children (particularly young children) from them. The reasoning behind this legal doctrine is that it is recognized that kids often do not understand the dangers that an artificial feature like a canal or an irrigation pond poses. Therefore, the adults that do comprehend those risks and thus must be vigilant for them.

A property owner’s obligations to your children’s safety under the attractive nuisance doctrine continue even if your child is on the property without permission. However, if the property owner has taken steps to limits kids’ access to an attractive nuisance (such as building a fence around it), they may be absolved of liability.