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What is the attractive nuisance doctrine?

On Behalf of | Aug 25, 2023 | Blog, Premises Liability |

Every homeowner and property owner wants their space to be both functional and pleasant. Yet, for those with features like swimming pools, trampolines or other enticing elements on their property, there is an added layer of responsibility in Maryland. This responsibility revolves around the “attractive nuisance doctrine.”

The attractive nuisance doctrine is a legal concept that can hold property owners liable if a child trespasses onto their property and gets hurt by a hazardous object or condition that might attract children. This principle comes from the idea that children might not fully grasp the risks of certain enticing features.

Which features qualify as an attractive nuisance?

Various conditions or objects in Maryland can qualify as attractive nuisances. Common examples include swimming pools, machinery, abandoned cars or even treehouses. If a child sees these features and decides to enter the property, the owner might face responsibility if the child gets hurt.

What are the property owner’s responsibilities?

As a property owner, you have duties. If you know about a potential attractive nuisance on your property, you must either make it inaccessible to children or ensure its safety. For example, if you own a swimming pool, you should fence it off or use a secure cover to prevent accidental drownings.

Does this doctrine have limitations?

The attractive nuisance doctrine does not automatically hold the property owner responsible for any injury a trespassing child might sustain. For the doctrine to apply, you must meet several conditions:

  • The feature can be harmful to children
  • The child, which might include those under the age of 18, does not recognize the involved risk
  • Fixing the situation costs little compared to the risk it presents

The property owner must also know, or have a reasonable suspicion, that children might trespass onto their property.

What are the possible consequences?

If the attractive nuisance doctrine applies to a situation, there are potential consequences for the property owner. They might have to pay medical bills, compensate for pain and suffering or cover long-term rehabilitation costs for the injured child.

Property owners can be proactive and install surveillance cameras, post warning signs or inspect their property regularly for potential hazards. Community awareness programs in Maryland also provide guidance on how to safeguard properties from becoming attractive nuisances.

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