Premises Liability and Kids
Property owners owe different duties of care to invited or trespassing adults and children.
Property owners owe a duty of care to all individuals who may visit their property. They are expected to maintain their premises in good condition, inspecting regularly for hazards and taking prompt action to warn of or remedy these hazards. However, there are some differences in the way the law relates to invited and uninvited adults and children.
Duties to Adult Guests
Whether an individual has been invited to a private property or is conducting business in a store or other commercial property, the property owner has a duty to protect that individual from slipping, tripping, falling, or otherwise suffering an injury due to a known dangerous condition on the property. However, property owners do not have to warn adults of conditions that constitute “open and obvious” hazards that any reasonable person would know to avoid. Property owners can also avoid premises liability if the injured individual was behaving negligently or recklessly.
Duties to Adult Trespassers
In most states, property owners simply have to refrain from injuring trespassers deliberately, and any other types of injuries that may occur are assumed to be the trespasser’s own fault. In California the status of the visitor is always given less weight than the conditions that led to the injury. However, the court may consider whether the act of trespassing led the injured individual to use the property in an unreasonable or unforeseeable way, in which case the property owner may avoid liability.
Duties to Children
Regardless of whether a child is supposed to be on the property or not, the owner owes a special duty of care to that child under the attractive nuisance doctrine. The law recognizes that children are playful, curious, and often unable to fully understand the dangers they may be exposing themselves to when exploring their environment. Their responsibility to exercise “reasonable care” while on another’s property is therefore lower than an adult’s in the eyes of the law. For instance, while a sign is sufficient to warn an adult to take reasonable care, signage is not sufficient to protect children.
Property owners are expected to be aware of conditions that may entice children on to their property and take steps to prevent children from being harmed by those conditions. For instance, property owners should:
- Fence off swimming pools
- Keep machinery, tools, and chemicals locked up
- Keep dangerous animals tied or kenneled
- Maintain paths and stairs in good condition
- Clean up scrap metal, broken glass, and debris
If your child has been injured on someone else’s property, it is critical that you consult an experienced personal injury attorney like Fernando D. Vargas who can help determine if you have a sound basis for a claim.