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Protecting Children From Property Hazards

LAND OWNERS HAVE A DUTY TO MAINTAIN PROPERTY IN REASONABLY CHILD-SAFE CONDITION

As a general rule, property owners (and people in possession and control of property) must protect children from reasonably foreseeable hazards and dangerous conditions.

While this duty does not require landlords or others to maintain property in a “child-proof” or absolutely safe condition, the duty does require special care to identify and remove or mitigate hazards when children are or may be present.

It’s impossible to make real property, or improvements on property, absolutely safe. There is no such thing as “100% child-proofing.” However, people who own or control property do need to take special care to investigate hazardous conditions, not only from an adult’s view but also from a child’s perspective.

The hazards land owners must evaluate, and potentially mitigate, includes any special dangers or conditions arising from the presence of children. For example, the possibility that one child might accidentally or intentionally injure another.

However, courts have held that property owners have no special duty to supervise children who are accompanied to the property by a parent or legal guardian. This doesn’t mean that homeowners have no liability if a minor guest is injured–whether or not a parent is present–but it does impact the nature of the duty owed to minor visitors.

Generally, the homeowner’s duty does not continue after the minor leaves the property–unless the homeowner has a special relationship with the minor (such as agreeing to supervise the minor away from the residence) which creates an additional duty.

The law may also create (or enforce) a duty of care where the minor has a legally-recognized “special relationship” with the property owner or a responsible adult. For this reason, land owners and other adults should investigate and understand the nature of their legal relationship to all minors on their property or entrusted to their care.

In addition, land owners should take care to evaluate the condition of their property, and eliminate or mitigate hazards, prior to permitting or inviting minor guests.

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If you believe you or your minor child has a claim against a property owner, or someone in possession and control of property, consult an attorney promptly. Delay could damage your claims and legal rights. If you’re a landowner uncertain about the nature and extent of your legal obligations to repair, maintain, and warn, either with regard to adults or for minors, consult an attorney for an individual evaluation of your rights and obligations.

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DISCLAIMER: This article is intended for informational purposes only, does not constitute legal advice to any person or entity, and does not create an attorney-client relationship with any person or entity. Premises liability is a complex legal topic, and no single article can provide complete or comprehensive coverage or information about this or any other legal topic or issue. Your personal liability may differ, based on your individual facts and circumstances. If you believe you have a legal claim or issue, or wish to know more about your individual rights, consult an experienced attorney without delay.

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