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What Duty do Land Owners Owe to Minors?

GENERALLY, LAND OWNERS (AND POSSESSORS/MANAGERS) MUST PROTECT MINORS FROM REASONABLY FORESEEABLE HARM.

People who own, control, or possess property generally have a duty to prevent reasonably foreseeable harm to children. This includes naturally-occurring hazards, artificial or constructed hazards (including, but not limited to, harms resulting from attractive nuisances like construction sites), and hazards caused by the presence of other patrons (including other children).

While this may initially seem like a heavy burden, the land owner’s obligations do not require elimination of perils, nor do they require that the property owner make the property “absolutely safe.” Instead, property owners must make reasonable efforts to protect children from foreseeable harms.

Where a special relationship exists between the property owner and the minor, the duty may acquire additional strength. For example, property owners may owe a greater duty to minors in their employ than they do to those who enter the property without permission or by random chance.

The land owner’s duty is facts and circumstances-based, meaning that the land owner’s duty to prevent harm to children changes depending on the particular facts of the actual situation. Property owners should consult an experienced attorney regarding their duties to children (and others entering the land).

LAND OWNERS MAY OWE A LESSER DUTY TO CHILDREN ACCOMPANIED BY A PARENT OR GUARDIAN.

California law often does not impose a special duty on property owners to protect children when the child’s parents or guardians are present. In fact, in some cases, the land owner’s duty to protect children from reasonably foreseeable harms may not apply when the child’s parent or guardian accompanies the child onto the land.

However, property owners should never assume that they “owe no duty” to minors or others entering on their land, and should consult an attorney to ensure that they and their properties have implemented legally sufficient  safety procedures, practices, and posted warnings to comply with any legally recognized duties to third parties, including (but not limited to) minors and people with disabilities.

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Disclaimer: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE AUTHOR AND ANY PERSON. Your rights and experiences may vary. Never use an online article (including this one) to evaluate your legal claims. Speak with an experienced lawyer promptly to obtain a personalized evaluation of your claims, possible damages, and options. You may lose or compromise your rights if you delay in consulting legal counsel. Negligence and premises liability claims are complicated and fact-dependent. If you believe you have a claim against a property owner who permitted or failed to repair a dangerous condition, or any other type of legal claim, consult an experienced lawyer immediately for an evaluation of your possible rights and claims.

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