What Is the “Attractive Nuisance” Exception?

Attractive Nuisance ExceptionProperty owners owe a duty of care to people they invite onto their property and people who have permission to be on their property. Property owners generally do not owe a duty of care to anyone who trespasses on their property – with one key exception. The exception is known in Washington state as the “attractive nuisance” exception. The exception generally applies to children who don’t understand the nuances of property law. Children just understand there’s a swimming pool, trampoline, or another object on the property that attracts them to want to swim, jump, or explore the enticing object.

The idea behind the attractive nuisance exception is that property owners need to anticipate that children will often cut through back yards, explore wherever their eyes take them, and take risks adults will not. The property owners should take steps to prevent children from entering their property altogether or from being able to use the attractive nuisance. The attractive nuisance exception applies whether the child is a trespasser, a licensee (had permission to be on the property) or whether the child was invited to the property (such as a neighborhood birthday party).

What types of conditions are considered an attractive nuisance?

Homes are often attractive to children if they have a swimming pool, a trampoline, a jungle gym, or any type of equipment that the child might want to play with.

  • Swimming pools are inherently dangerous. Swimming pools are especially dangerous because many children don’t know how to swim or aren’t good swimmers. Children can also easily slip and fall if the surface around the pool is wet – which it probably is – or get entrapped by uncovered drains or in pool covers.
  • Trampolines can cause serious injuries. Trampolines are fun, and they entice children to jump, but they can be dangerous, too. If the child uses the trampoline without supervision, he/she can die as a result of a fall. Children who hit their heads when they land on the ground may suffer brain injuries. Other trampoline injuries include fractures, spinal cord damage, joint damage, and all sorts of muscle, nerve, and ligament damage.
  • Jungle gym equipment and bounce houses have fall risks. Children who use this equipment without supervision may also suffer a range of serious fall injuries.
  • Construction sites can entice young climbers. Construction sites also can entice children. Children are naturally curious about planks, beams, and all types of structures. They can easily suffer fall injuries or injuries because they are struck by an object. They can even be pinned against an object or struck by a vehicle such as a bulldozer or forklift. Construction sites may contact toxins, electrical objects, and sharp objects that can an array of health and safety risks.
  • Kids love dogs. In today’s world, everyone loves dogs. But dogs don’t always want to be pet, especially by younger children, and they can attack without warning. This is why you need to keep your dog leashed while out and behind a fence while in.

Attractive nuisances, according to Nationwide, also include:

  • Fountains
  • Wells
  • Treehouses
  • Ziplines
  • Lumbar piles
  • Sand piles
  • Gravel piles
  • Abandoned vehicles
  • Machinery

What precautions should property owners take?

The easiest way to prevent a child from using a swimming pool or any other attractive nuisance is to prevent the child from entering the property in the first place. Most people who have above-ground or in-ground pools use fences to make sure children can’t use the pool. Screens and other barriers can prevent children from entering properties or construction sites.

Tri Cities Business News recommends that homeowners regularly inspect their properties for any conditions that might attract children. If there are attractive nuisances, the first step is to determine whether they can be removed. If they can’t then a second step is to prevent access. For example, if a homeowner has a pool, the homeowner can use a fence to completely prevent access or place a tarp over the pool while the pool is not in use. Dangerous objects that can be removed or taken down should be removed/taken down.

Homeowners and property owners, according to Tri Cities Business News, should also consider increasing the amount of property insurance they have in case an accident or death does occur.

What are the basic elements of an attractive nuisance lawsuit?

At Philbrook Law Office, we are skilled premises liability lawyers. We file claims on behalf of anyone who is injured while walking on or using the property of a business owner, organization, nonprofit, or residential property. We work with investigators and witnesses to show how drownings, slip and falls, and other injuries occur while you or a child are on another property.

In attractive nuisance cases, we work to show:

  • That a property contained a potentially dangerous condition.
  • That the property owner created the dangerous condition or knew of the danger and failed to take corrective actions.
  • That the property owner had knowledge or should have reasonably known that anyone under 18 might be attracted to the dangerous condition.
  • That the property owner was aware the dangerous condition could harm the child.
  • That the child did suffer harm as a result of using or exploring the dangerous condition.
  • That the landowner could have taken steps, without any undue burden, to prevent the child from entering the property or using the attractive nuisance.

At Philbrook Law Office, our premises liability lawyers understand when property accident victims are invitees, licensees, or trespassers. We understand when the attractive nuisance doctrine applies. We file wrongful death claims, personal injury claims, and product liability claims. Our lawyers demand compensation for your financial and personal losses. To assert your legal rights, call our lawyers in Vancouver or Battle Ground, WA. You can call us at 360-695-3309 or use our contact form to schedule an appointment. We represent accident claims on a contingency fee basis.