An Alabama premises liability claim may involve an attractive nuisance, or the attractive nuisance doctrine. Permitting an attractive nuisance to present a hazard to children on a property is a form of owner negligence. A property owner could be liable for a child’s injuries or death if he or she reasonably should have prevented the incident through prudent property care. Attractive nuisances are risks that are particularly dangerous to children in Alabama.
Property Owner Responsibilities to Trespassing Children
A trespasser is someone who enters or stays on a property without the owner’s permission. In most cases, property owners in Alabama do not owe trespassers any duties of care. The only duty an owner owes a trespasser is the duty not to intentionally cause harm. A property owner does not need to repair hazards, control pets, or otherwise make a property safe for trespassers. Children, however, are important exemptions to Alabama’s premises liability law that eliminates property owner responsibilities to trespassers.
Child trespassers under the age of 18 benefit from the same duties of care a property owner owes to invitees. This includes monitoring the premises for potential or hidden hazards, repairing known property defects, and warning visitors of existing dangers. It does not matter whether the child had permission to enter the property. Parents have the right to expect their neighbors to keep premises reasonably safe for wandering children – especially if the property contains an attractive nuisance.
Definition and Examples of Attractive Nuisances
An attractive nuisance is a dangerous condition or property element with a nature such as to attract children. It can be anything that would reasonably attract a child, such as a play area or toy. The existence of an attractive nuisance on a property increases the landowner or landlord’s responsibilities to trespassing children. Instead of owing the traditional duties to child trespassers, property owners owe higher standards of care because of attractive nuisances. Examples of these property elements are as follows.
- Swimming pools
- Ponds, fountains, or other bodies of water
- Farm animals
- ATVs or four-wheelers
Attractive nuisances can increase a property owner’s liability for accidents, injuries, and deaths that happen on the property. It is up to the owner to reasonably prevent the attractive nuisance from causing harm to children who visit the property – including trespassing minors. This may include taking steps such as posting warning signs, covering pools, installing fences, and investing in security devices such as alarms. The exact duties a property owner may have to protect trespassing kids will depend on the circumstances.
Proving an Attractive Nuisance Case
If a child suffers a serious injury while on someone else’s property – either lawfully or while trespassing – parents may have grounds for a premises liability claim against the property owner. They have two years from the date of the child’s injury to file a premises liability lawsuit in Alabama. However, the parents or their attorneys must prove certain elements existed before they can apply the attractive nuisance doctrine.
- The property contained a dangerous condition, element, or instrument.
- The dangerous condition or instrument was something a typical person would expect to attract children.
- The property owner was aware of the existence and allure of the dangerous condition.
- The injured child did not realize or recognize the danger of the condition or instrument.
- The child never received adequate warning of the potential danger of the condition.
Only with these elements will the courts apply the attractive nuisance doctrine to a premises liability claim. Then, it will be up to the parents’ lawyer to prove the property owner’s negligence. This makes establishing a duty of care to the child, a breach of this duty, causation, and damages. Hiring a lawyer can help parents navigate the many legal issues an attractive nuisance claim can involve.