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Attractive Nuisances: What They Are and Why You Should Be Concerned

Everything You Need to Know About Attractive Nuisances

Each year, there are roughly 3,000 serious swimming-pool-related injuries. Swimming pools and other common property features can legally qualify as an attractive nuisance. In some cases, those who are injured by an attractive nuisance can seek damages.

What Is an Attractive Nuisance?

The attractive nuisance doctrine is a legal concept used to describe specific dangerous property features. Any man-made object on a property can be an attractive nuisance if it is both appealing and can be harmful to children. The classic example of an attractive nuisance is a swimming pool, but just about anything a property owner has may be an attractive nuisance. An attractive nuisance needs to be something that the property owner is responsible for. Something like a pair of scissors that another child brought to the property would not be an attractive nuisance. Furthermore, natural items are usually not an attractive nuisance. Courts may only consider an item to be an attractive nuisance if it is an item the property owner maintains or installs. To qualify as an attractive nuisance, the item needs to be something that the homeowner has not taken reasonable precautions to protect children from. An attractive nuisance usually is not something inside of a person's home. Instead, it is typically something that a property owner has in an easily accessible location. In addition to being out in the open, an attractive nuisance is usually left unattended and remains easy for children to interact with. Attractive nuisance laws in Pennsylvania specifically apply to children. From a legal perspective, children do not understand the gravity of trespassing, so adults still have a duty of care to protect children who trespass. Therefore, attractive nuisance suits almost always involve minors. An adult is usually only the plaintiff in an attractive nuisance case if they are suing on behalf of their child or if they were injured while trying to protect a child from an attractive nuisance.

Attractive Nuisance Examples

Since attractive nuisance laws are so vague, looking at examples of attractive nuisances makes it easier to understand what they are. An attractive nuisance can be just about anything that a property owner has added to their property. As long as it is appealing to children and has the potential to harm them, something might be an attractive nuisance. Examples of attractive nuisances can include:
  • Swimming pools
  • Treehouses
  • Trampolines
  • Construction sites
  • Lawnmowers
  • Pets or farm animals
  • Wells
Something can be an attractive nuisance even if it is not part of this list or if it is not something children might usually be interested in. Anytime a property owner was aware children were interacting with something and declined to prevent the children from accessing the item, they may be held liable if a child was injured. Therefore, attractive nuisances can be anything from heavy machinery to an old refrigerator. Keep in mind that attractive nuisances are usually man-made objects. The doctrine typically does not apply to things the property owner does not install or maintain. Furthermore, legal courts do acknowledge that children can hurt themselves on many things, like choking hazards or heights. Therefore, there is still some responsibility for parents to monitor small children from basic harm. Things that are usually not considered an attractive nuisance may include:
  • Lakes, ponds, or other waterways
  • Cliffs or hills
  • Tall trees
  • Sticks, acorns, or other small choking hazards
  • Roaming wild animals

How Having an Attractive Nuisance May Lead to Lawsuits

When a child is injured by an attractive nuisance, they and their family may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit. These lawsuits argue that the property owner had a duty to protect children from a naturally appealing object. The plaintiff and their Allentown personal injury lawyer will need to show that the object was obviously dangerous and highlight the ways the property owner failed to protect children who might wander onto their property. If they can do this, the defendant might be held liable for the child's injuries. In most lawsuits involving attractive nuisances, the property owner may need to compensate the victim for their injuries. This can include paying for medical bills, lost earning potential, trauma, and lost wages. If the injuries were fatal, the plaintiffs can sue for wrongful death damages as well. Since the cases tend to involve parents as well, the property owner might need to compensate the parent for any lost wages, extra expenses, or legal fees due to the child's injury. In Pennsylvania, lawsuits may also request punitive damages that punish the defendant for bad behavior. These are usually not awarded in cases of mild negligence. However, if the defendant was willfully malicious or extremely careless with an obviously dangerous item, punitive damages may be brought up. This is an additional form of personal injury compensation that can lead to a larger payment for the defendant.

Potential Defenses in an Attractive Nuisance Lawsuit

If you or a loved one has been harmed by an attractive nuisance, you may be able to consult with an Allentown personal injury attorney and sue the property owner. However, it is important to keep in mind that there are many defenses in an attractive nuisance suit. You usually only have a case if the property owner did not take steps to appropriately warn others of the danger and secure the property from others. A property owner may be able to defend against a lawsuit if they can show they took reasonable precautions. Reasonable precautions are essentially anything that would stop the average person from being harmed by the nuisance. This can include things like putting a lockable cover over a swimming pool or removing the keys from a lawnmower. Another reason a defendant may be able to avoid losing a lawsuit is if they can show that they restricted access to the nuisance. For example, if they put a fence around a pool or removed the ladder to a treehouse, there is a chance they might not be held liable. Though these are all possible defenses, the presence of a gate, cover, or lock does not automatically rule out your ability to win an attractive nuisance lawsuit. A property owner is still being negligent if they fail to consider all the ways a child could try to access the nuisance. They may also be negligent if the cover or gate they install is too easy to bypass. Every attractive nuisance case is different, so it is very important to speak to a legal expert. When handling attractive nuisance cases, it is important to have an experienced Allentown personal injury attorney on your side. At Metzger & Kleiner, we work hard to help our clients get compensation. If you think you may have a reason to sue a property owner, get in touch with us today. Call 610-435-7400 to schedule a consultation with our team.

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