Who is responsible if a child tresspasses and gets hurt on a neighbor’s property?

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Who is responsible if a child tresspasses and gets hurt on a neighbor’s property?

I have a coach house atop of my garage. The stairs are at the side of the building leading down into my open back yard. The family across the way have a toddler who sneaks off and loves to go up my stairs. When I see him, I go tell his parents and they laugh. As they collect him they say to me, “We can see this is a liability to you”. Who is liable if this toddler gets hurt – me for owning a staircase or them for lack of parental control? If I put a sign up, “NO TRESPASSING” or “STAIRS TO BE USED BY AUTHORIZED PERSONAL ONLY”, would this cover me from liability?

Asked on March 23, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Florida

Answers:

MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You have a difficult dilemma to deal with herein. On one hand you did well by putting up signs, but unfortunately, for a toddler who doesn't read, it won't be useful. As to the parents, the parents are now on notice that trespassing is not allowed. If you have open stairs, it looks like this might be from the parents' perspective considered an attractive nuisance. Attractive nuisance is a legal term of art that applies to property owners (whether individuals, businesses, construction sites, etc) wherein if certain elements are met, the property owner is held liable for having an attractive nuisance for children and not preventing the children from getting to it. At minimum the idea is to prevent landowners from having dangerous objects or conditions on the property of which children cannot appreach the risk involved in entering or going near. Conditions include your knowledge it is an attractive nuisance (children are likely to trespass) and the cost of fixing it to prevent trespass is less than the risk of allowing trespass to occur or injury to occur. The lawsuit if any were to occur due to injury might include the fact the parents are obviously not properly looking after their child.


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