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Understanding the “attractive nuisance” doctrine

On Behalf of | Jul 26, 2020 | Premises Liability

Under premises liability law, property owners in Mississippi are supposed to exercise a duty of care to all lawful entrants, be they employees, customers or social guests, and this means maintaining a safe environment. Trespassers are not covered, but there is actually one exception: children.

The doctrine of an “attractive nuisance” states that if children, who typically cannot comprehend all the hazards on a given property, are likely to be attracted to something on a property, then the owner must prevent any harm from coming to these children even if they are uninvited. Attractive nuisances range from fountains, wells and swimming pools to trampolines, tree houses and landscaping. Ladders and scaffolding can be included as well.

Some attractive nuisances can go without maintenance, and property owners will not be held liable for injuries. These include ponds, lakes and cliffs; choking hazards found naturally on the ground, such as acorns; and trees, assuming that a child falls out of a tree rather than being crushed by it. Nor can owners be held liable if children touch fire or approach a wild animal since children should be aware of these dangers.

Property owners who take reasonable precautions and follow local rules and regulations have nothing to worry about. They can fence and lock up certain nuisances as well as warn children and their parents when possible.

As for the victims of a property owner’s negligence, or the parents if the victim is a child, they may want to see an attorney who understands premises liability law. It all begins with a case assessment. The attorney may then take the case on, hiring third parties, if necessary, to prove the defendant’s failure to uphold the duty of care. Plaintiffs may leave the negotiating to their attorney.