Personal Injury Or Wrongful Death Cases Involving Children And Attractive Nuisances

Normally property owners are not responsible for a trespasser’s personal injuries or wrongful death on their property.  The reason for that is simple — A property owner can’t protect people that have no business being there and aren’t known to be there.   But children who are too young to appreciate danger are an exception to that general rule.  Under the “attractive nuisance” doctrine, property owners can be held liable for injuries to or the death of a young trespassing child.

Attractive nuisance claims are difficult to prove.  Iowa’s courts have been reluctant to ascribe a broad meaning to the concept of an “attractive nuisance.”  In fact, the Iowa Supreme Court sometimes seems to regret ever having recognized the attractive nuisance doctrine in the first place.

A sign of that regret is the supreme court’s strict concept of what constitutes an attractive nuisance.  A person suing for personal injuries to or wrongful death of a child must prove quite a bit to be successful:

  • The property owner was aware or should have been aware that children were likely to enter the property.  Perhaps there’s something on the property that would attract young children and draw them onto it.  Or maybe the property is near a school, park, or some other area where children are frequently passing by.
  • The property owner has something on the property that could clearly be harmful or deadly to children.
  • The trespassing child is too young to comprehend the risk of the dangerous or deadly object on the property.
  • The danger to children is greater than any difficulties that would confront the property owner if the owner eliminated the hazardous object or exercised caution to make the object safer.
  • The property owner did not take reasonable safety measures to protect children from the dangerous or deadly object.

The attractive nuisance doctrine is a corollary of the special rules regarding child/vehicle car accidents.  Both recognize that in certain situations regarding young children adults must give more care than adults normally would for older children or adults.


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