Can I Get Sued For A Child Injury If They Trespass on My Property?

The house I grew up in is located in Wichita, Kansas. In the 1970s, when I lived there, It was a large house, on a large piece of land, surrounded by other large houses on large pieces of land. Today, it abuts a freeway that cuts through Wichita; and virtually every surrounding house is gone.

The home was built and owned by one of the founders of Wichita’s newspapers and featured a lot of very unusual architectural and designs. As a kid, it was a wonderland. It had a large fort for me to play in and a full sized dollhouse for my sister. And the backyard had an array of professional quality merry go rounds, horizontal monkey bars and still rings that were probably designed, built and installed in the 1950s. And since this was Wichita in the early 1970s, we would often look out our windows and find complete strangers in our backyard swinging and playing on these contraptions.

Today, I am a personal injury lawyer practicing in Miami specializing in child injury cases– and I often think about just how dangerous our little playground was, not just for those who trespassed into our backyard, by simply opening the unlocked fence, but for my parents who could have been easily sued if someone ever got hurt (nobody was hurt as far as I remember) under the doctrine of Attractive Nuisance.

Am I Responsible For A Child’s Injury on My Property if They Trespassed?

According to Florida statute §768.075 property owners in Florida- generally, do not have a duty to warn undiscovered trespassers of dangers on their property. An undiscovered trespasser is one who is illegally on the property, without an invitation, for at least 24 hours before the accident. There are a number of exceptions, and perhaps the most common is the Florida Attractive Nuisance Doctrine. Essentially, this common law principle holds property owners responsible for accidents and injuries on their property caused by the presence of an object that is understandably “attractive” to children such as refrigerators and freezers, washers and dryers, swimming pools, fountains, trampolines, power tools and abandoned vehicles.

What Defines an Attractive Nuisance?

In order to hold a property owner responsible one must prove that the owner either knew or should have known of a dangerous condition created by a manmade object left on the property, posing an unreasonable risk of harm to children that the property owner could foreseeably expect to trespass upon his or her property and that the child did not realize the dangerousness of the condition or object. Additionally, it must be shown that the owner failed to take steps to dispose of the dangerous condition which enticed a child onto the property.

The dangerous conditions must be manmade and not a naturally occurring condition such as a lake, stream or river. For example, a tree would not be a dangerous condition, but a zip line connecting a series of trees would be.

Property Owners in Florida- Protect Yourself from Liability

To reduce the chances of an injury and liability on your property, several steps can be taken:

  1. Comply with local and state ordinances. Most towns and cities have separate attractive nuisance codes.
  2. Store unused tools and equipment. Don’t leave your riding mower in an easily accessible place.
  3. Dispose of used freezers and refrigerators or if you must keep a used freezer on your front lawn at least remove its doors.
  4. Fence your property, and inspect all gates, locks, and doors frequently.

If you have been involved in an accident on another’s property it is important to consult with an experienced premise liability law firm. I am a Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer, specializing in personal injury cases and my law firm, Aronfeld Trial Lawyers has over 30 years of combined legal experience holding property owners liable for injuries that occur on their premises. Call us today for a free initial consultation via telephone toll free-1-866-597-4529, local 305-441-0440 or email at [email protected]. Call us today, we are ready to help you.

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