Child Trespassers Under Florida Law
When a person visits another person’s land, or the home or business on that land, they are subject to a branch of Florida law known as premises liability. Premises liability law establishes that landowners have a duty of care toward the people who visit their property, depending on their legal classification. Trespassers are at the bottom of the legal totem pole, only requiring minimal effort from the landowner to refrain from intentionally injuring them. However, the law is different for child trespassers. If your child has been injured on someone else’s land, they may be able to recover damages from the owner.
Minor Children Are In A Different Category
Florida law establishes three categories of visitor under premises liability law. Invitees are those who have been invited for business with the landowner – for example, visitors to a public place like a museum qualify as invitees, as do customers in a business – and are owed a high duty of care and protection. Licensees are permitted on the premises for business of their own – the common example is door-to-door salesmen – and are owed a middling duty, plus protection from intentional injury. Trespassers, as one might imagine, are not technically permitted on the premises, but if they are there, they are owed the lowest duty of care of the three categories.
This is not the case with child trespassers. Minor children who trespass onto someone else’s land are legally assumed to lack the ability to properly assess danger, or to be aware of how to react to danger. A legal doctrine called the “attractive nuisance” doctrine holds that if there is an attractive nuisance on someone’s land, the owner has a responsibility to take steps to keep children out, or at least to clearly warn of the possible danger. If they do not, they can be held liable for any damages that the child sustains, despite their being a trespasser. The landowner’s right to manage their land as they see fit is considered subordinate to protecting children (who may not be able to understand the potential dangerousness of their actions).
What Is An Attractive Nuisance?
Florida law defines certain things as attractive nuisances in state law – some examples include “abandoned or discarded iceboxes, refrigerators, […] or similar airtight units from which the doors have not been removed,” but in reality, anything from a clothes dryer to an abandoned construction project may be an attractive nuisance, depending on the child and the nature of where the item is situated on the property. The law holds that anything which might be “compelling” to children, but also dangerous, can qualify.
If a child is injured by an attractive nuisance, their parent or guardian can file suit as ‘next friend’ if they believe that there may be a cause of action for damages. It is important to be aware that the mere presence of an attractive nuisance does not mean that you will recover damages against the owner; rather, it must still be established that the owner did not take sufficient steps to make the “nuisance” safe, or to at least warn potential trespassers of its dangers. An experienced attorney can help clarify matters.
Contact A Tampa Premises Liability Attorney
If your child has been injured, it can be difficult to react from a place of anything but rage and fear. However, enlisting a Tampa premises liability attorney from the Rinaldo Law Group can help clarify your options, and help you determine what the best path is for you and your family. We can offer compassionate and dedicated representation in what can be a scary time. Call us today at (813) 831-9999 for a free consultation.