Under Florida law, there are statutes that apply to a death or injury resulting from something known as an attractive nuisance. The definition of an attractive nuisance is relatively simple, as indicated by the name – it means an inherently dangerous physical location or object that may be attractive to children.
Florida's attractive nuisance doctrine provides the legal grounds under which to take action against a property owner, or the owner's managers or representatives, who have not taken steps to eliminate any risk of injury or death of a child caused by an attractive nuisance.
It is important to point out the word ‘child', in that the attractive nuisance doctrine applies only to children, not adults. The thinking there is that a child may not fully understand that a scenario represents something dangerous that may hurt them, but an adult should realize that.
What Exactly is an Attractive Nuisance?
Many folks may remember as a kid, exploring the areas around where you lived with your buddies. You may have ridden your bikes past that old abandoned farmhouse, and always talked about what was inside. At some point, you may have gotten up the courage to go onto the property and get inside, just to see for yourself what was in there.
A kid's curiosity, even though their parents may have told them repeatedly never to go near that old barn, can often get the better of them. When your buddies are saying you're ‘chicken' for not wanting to go inside, it can put a lot of pressure on a child to show that they're not afraid, and they decide to go inside and check it out.
Let's say the owner of the barn really has not taken any steps to keep people out of the barn. The gate to the fence has been wide open for years, there are no signs warning people to stay out, and the old barn doors are so decayed that there are openings large enough for someone to fit through.
That is an attractive nuisance.
If a child does enter that old barn and ends up suffering a serious injury or even death, a lawsuit could be filed against the property's owner, or their legal representatives.
That property owner can be held liable for the injury or wrongful death, provided certain criteria are found to be evident:
- The property's owner knew, or had reason to believe, that children were likely to trespass on their property.
- The owner knew, or had reason to know, that the property and its condition presented an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death to a child.
- A child would not know about or understand the risks that may be found on that property.
- The burden of removing the danger is slight, compared to the potential risk presented to children.
- The owner failed to exercise reasonable care to address the danger conditions found on the property or otherwise try to prevent any uninvited children from trespassing on the property.
- Here are a few other things that may constitute an attractive nuisance:
If you've ever watched an old western television show, you may have seen an episode where a kid is intrigued by an old abandoned well out in the pasture. He and his buddies have always talked about it, and finally decide to get closer to check it out. But because the old well is in such dilapidated condition, one the kids falls into the well. Today, that would be a classic example of an attractive nuisance.
Here are a few other examples:
- Abandoned or unattended swimming pools
- Damaged or unsafe playground equipment
- Abandoned cars, trucks or farm equipment
- Man-made ponds or large pits in the ground
- Well or mine shafts
- Abandoned refrigerators, washing machines, dryers, freezers or other household appliances
- Ladders and other construction equipment
There are some exceptions to the attractive nuisance doctrine. In order to file a lawsuit under the attractive nuisance doctrine, a child must have been found to be on the property without the owner's consent. In other words, an invited child cannot sue the property owner if they suffer an injury or lose their life.
Other exceptions include a minor who enters the premises with the intention of committing a felony act, or a minor who is on the property and also under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The attractive nuisance doctrine is often associated with premises liability lawsuits. These types of cases involve a property owner or manager who did not take reasonable safety or warning precautions to advise people of a potentially dangerous or unsafe situation on their property, like broken handrails, slippery stairs, dark hallways or lack of security personnel.
Attorney Michael Noone has been handling these types of lawsuits in Southwest Florida for nearly 20 years, and knows how to hold the owners of a dangerous building or property accountable for their endangering of other people.
“It really bothers me when a building owner is found to have been aware of a potentially dangerous situation on their property, sometimes for years, yet never took action to correct it,” says Noone. “Not only is this a terrible way to run a business, but it also may lead to someone suffering a catastrophic injury or even their death.”
Many people feel that if their child is hurt after they've gotten into an old, abandoned building, there's nothing that can be done to get help in paying for their injuries or other non-economic damages. But the laws related to an attractive nuisance are in place to provide a way to hold property owners responsible for not taking reasonable precautions to protect people, specifically children in these instances.
If you have any questions concerning attractive nuisance or premises liability lawsuits, we invite you to call our main office at 239-461-5508, or just complete this simple form and we'll reach out to you immediately. It never costs a thing to get answers to your questions. In fact, if you do decide to hire the Goldberg Noone Abraham law firm, you'll never pay a penny out of your pocket. Our contingency fee basis means we only collect a fee for our services in the event we are successful on your behalf.
For the complete Florida statutes regarding attractive nuisance, click here.