In this article, we explain the current law in California, including Los Angeles, regarding injury to a child and premises liability, and discuss what you need to know if your child is injured on someone else’s property.
For many years, the law in California regarding the liability of a landowner for an injury to a child on his or her property was based on the theory of “attractive nuisance.” The attractive nuisance doctrine was part of the larger legal picture regarding injuries to people that occurred on the property owned by another, called “premises liability.”
Until 1970, the law imposed different levels of liability on landowners depending on the classification of the “entrant”, or injured person–in other words, depending on the reason the injured party had for being on the property. The injured party was classified as a trespasser, a licensee, or an invitee, and the law imposed increasingly higher duties on the landowner depending on which type of entrant they were deemed to be. Typically, the law did not impose liability on landowners for injuries to trespassers on their property. The law did, however, carve out a special class of entrants for child trespassers who were injured by a condition that would be “attractive” to children that could not appreciate the risk of injury from such conditions, such as pools, machinery, and open pits. The attractive nuisance doctrine required the plaintiff to prove that the child did not understand the risk posed by the condition and that it would not have been overly burdensome for the landowner to eliminate the danger.
In 1970, the California Court of Appeals did away with the attractive nuisance doctrine in the case of Beard v. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Ry. Co. The court applied the California Supreme Court’s 1968 decision in Rowland v. Christian which abolished the trespasser/licensee/invitee classification system and the different landowner duties that went along with them.
However, the end of the attractive nuisance doctrine does not by any means let the landowner off the hook for injuries to a child trespasser on their property. Today, the court will look at the “foreseeability” rule of negligence in order to determine whether a landowner knew, or reasonably should have known that a condition would attract children onto their property, and whether such a condition was foreseeable (likely) to cause an injury.
There are, however, many subtle questions to be answered and legal rules to be applied when making a claim or bringing a lawsuit for an injury to a child on the property of another. Such questions and applicable rules can only be addressed on a case-by-case basis, since the facts of every client’s case are different and unique. Finally, you should always get the expert help and advice of an experienced attorney who understands the law and will fight to get you the result you want out of a difficult situation.
For over 30 years The Law Offices of Vann H. Slatter have been getting injured people and their children the compensation they deserve for injuries suffered on others’ property. Please call us today for your free consultation at (310) 444-3010 or toll-free at (888) 293-0404.