All property owners in California have a legal duty to keep their premises safe — even from those hazards that a person would not immediately think of. Things like pools, playground equipment, and landscaping features are examples of “attractive nuisances,” opening the door to liability in the event of an accident.
An attractive nuisance is essentially anything that can attract teens and children to a property that threatens them with harm. They are considered a premises liability, which occurs when an owner allows a dangerous condition to take place in their property.
According to California Civil Code 1714(a): “Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person…” However, in the presence of children and teens, the scrutiny is heightened.
Though California hasn’t had an “attractive nuisance” doctrine since 1970, which used to make property owners liable to injured children who have trespassed onto their property to explore something that could reasonably induce them to trespass, they still have a general duty to keep their property in a reasonably safe condition. This duty also requires homeowners to warn others of dangers on their property that might not be readily apparent.
Currently, there are no specific instructions for property owners when it comes to trespassing children and teens. Instead, California property owners have a general duty to keep their property in a reasonably safe condition to all visitors. With it, owners are also required to warn people of the dangers on their properties that may not be readily apparent.
If a property owner fails to maintain their duties, then they can be liable to any person that is injured on the property due to the dangerous or unsafe condition. An individual who is hurt on another person’s property can typically file a premises liability claim for damages against any person or company that owns, leases, occupies, or controls the property where the accident took place.
Though there aren’t any laws overseeing this type of hazards especifically, some common examples of attractive nuisances that property owners can can include:
- Water. If it’s possible to drown in, it’s a potential hazard. That means pools, fountains, wells, etc.
- Construction projects. Make sure to rent a dumpster to throw away any debris, remove tools from site at night, and always be aware of the area and any potential hazards related to equipment.
- Weapons. We’ve all heard the horror stories. It’s not enough to teach children not to touch weapons, they need to be stored securely, locked, and out of reach.
- Playgrounds. Though an outdated figure from 2001, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that emergency departments treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related injuries. Installing shock-absorbing surfaces and making sure it continues at least six feet from the swing set helps reduce accident risks.
Determining who’s at fault in a premises liability case is complex. Premises liability lawsuits require an injured individual to prove that he or she was harmed because of a property owner/manager’s negligence. An injured individual must specifically prove that the:
- Defendant's negligence was the primary factor that caused a plaintiff's injuries
- Defendant leased, owned, occupied, or was controlling the property where the incident took place
- Defendant acted negligently regarding use or maintenance of the property
- Plaintiff was hurt
As mentioned, all property owners have a duty of care to reasonably maintain their premises. A duty of care for a property owner essentially encompasses any actions that a reasonable property owner should take or should have taken in similar circumstances.
It’s also important to understand that a property owner’s duty of care may vary depending on who is on their property. Also, there are situations where an injured individual contributed negligence towards causing an accident. In such cases, liability may be shared between the property owner and the injured individual.