What Is the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine?

As your kids go out to play this summer in and around Los Angeles, your one hope for them is that they are able to avoid danger. Yet often their curiosity gets the best of them, even to the point of leading them into potentially harmful situations whose risks they do not fully comprehend. It is therefore up to adults to try and protect inquisitive children from dangerous features that may attract them (e.g., swimming pools, fountains, construction sites, abandoned buildings). Yet what happens when the owners of the properties these features are located on fail in their duty to protect kids from them? 

That is where the attractive nuisance doctrine comes into play. The Cornell Law School defines this principle as a method allowing you to hold a property owner for any injuries your child suffers due to attractive features on said property owner’s land. This legal doctrine first originated decades ago when it was learned that children were particularly attracted to railroad turntables as play places (in fact, it was originally referred to as “the Turntable Doctrine”). While children enjoyed playing on turntables, injuries often resulted due them not understanding the risks that turntables (and the rail cars sitting on them) posed. The doctrine later expanded to include the contemporary nuisances detailed above. 

The attractive nuisance doctrine applies even if your child was on a property without the owner’s permission. Property owners can, however, absolve themselves of liability under the attractive nuisance doctrine if they take steps to protect children from the dangerous features found on their lands. This may include erecting fences or other barriers the prevent kids from gaining access to a property. 

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