Schemery Zicolello

Do property owners need to protect trespassing children?

Pennsylvania property owners have a variety of responsibilities. In particular, under premises liability laws, property owners must keep their property safe for guests and invitees. However, this duty generally does not extend to trespassers. Trespassers are those people who do not have permission to enter the property owners' land. But, what about children? Children often wander on to other people's property without permission. Children often lack the experience or the social knowledge to stay away from the property of others.

Under premises liability laws, trespassing children are treated differently than regular trespassers. In these situations, property owners may have a duty to protect children from so-called attractive nuisances. An attractive nuisance is a dangerous property condition that is particularly attractive to children. This could include a swimming pool or heavy machinery.

Generally, property owners have a duty children from attractive nuisances. This means that property owners should inspect their property to determine if such a condition exists and correct the safety hazard.

If a trespassing child is hurt by a dangerous property condition, the property owner can be held liable if three conditions are met. One, the owner knew -- or should have known -- that young children were likely to trespass and that the property condition could cause serious injuries. Two, the owner knew -- or should have known -- that children would not understand the risk of the condition. And, three, the property owner knew -- or should have known -- that risk of the property condition outweighs the utility of the condition.

When a property owner can be held liable for the injuries sustained by a trespassing child, an attorney can help the child and the child's family receive compensation. While this blog post cannot answer specific questions about whether a property owner is liable, an attorney can.

Source: Findlaw.com, "Homeowner Liability for Trespasser Injuries," accessed Nov. 30, 2014

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