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What Is the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine in Illinois

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pile of books and clipboard and texts written what is attractive notorious doctrine

The Attractive Nuisance Doctrine provides legal remedies for victims injured by potentially dangerous features on a property. Individuals that own property in Illinois have a responsibility to their guests to keep conditions reasonably safe. Property owners can be held liable for injuries if they fail to mitigate potential hazards, perform maintenance, repair broken objects, or clean up debris and spills.

pile of books and clipboard and texts written what is attractive notorious doctrine

Premises liability cases involve accidents in a variety of locations. Common locations for these types of cases include daycares, worksites, restaurants, retail stores, public swimming pools, private residential properties, and business/government properties. 

Four truths must be present to hold a property owner liable for injuries sustained in the presence of hazardous conditions. One, the individual or business that owns, operates, or controls the property must have a duty of care to any visitors or guests when the injuries are sustained. Two, dangerous conditions must have existed on the property that could foreseeably cause injuries. Three, the liable party knew or should have known about the dangerous conditions in question and failed to remedy them or warn guests of their existence. Four, the plaintiff suffered injuries because of the hazardous conditions on the property, and those injuries resulted in damages. 

What Is the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine?

Attractive nuisance doctrines apply to any unenclosed objects or spaces on a property that are potentially dangerous. Under this doctrine, any objects or spaces that could potentially lure a child to the property create premises liability, and the negligent landlord of the property will be held accountable for injuries. When the items or areas in question are not properly maintained, property owners may be found responsible for any injuries or related expenses.

Determining Duty of Care

Controllers, managers, and real estate owners have a duty of care that exists when an injured party was legally allowed on the premises. Typically, victims must not be trespassing when the accident occurs for premises liability to apply. However, under the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine, property owners can be held liable when an enticing hazard lures minors onto the property and causes an injury. Premise liability cases can involve hidden defects, dog bites/animal attacks, inadequate security, construction site injuries, slip and fall accidents, and swimming pool accidents.

Types of Hazards in a Premises Liability Claim

There are many types of hazards that property owners are liable for. 

Hidden Defects

Hidden defects are the leading cause of accidents sustained on commercial and private properties. Property owners and managers are obligated to uphold a duty of care to ensure the safety of both customers and guests. Hazards may go unnoticed, or even be ignored, by negligent property owners. Hidden dangers often include electrical issues, loose railings or unstable stairs, structural weaknesses, and toxic substances.

Negligent Security

Commercial property owners and managers a responsible for taking the necessary precautions to reduce the risk of violence. Many locations will take extra security measures to ensure the safety of guests and residents. Security measures include installing security cameras, employing security guards, and being sure all doors/windows/gates are secure. Commercial properties with a higher risk of negligence claims include airports, apartment complexes, ATM stations and banks, bars/clubs/restaurants, hospital and medical clinics, malls and retail establishments, and parking lots and garages.

Animal Attacks

Many dog bite and animal attack victims require emergency medical treatment. Victims may be left with bruising, lacerations, infection, pain and suffering, and some even lose their lives. Illinois laws state that the property owner is responsible for any animals that attack without provocation while the victim is legally on the property. 

Construction Site Hazards

Construction sites are often in littered with potential liability claims. Construction zones may include cluttered walk spaces, loose railings, falling objects, and open trenches. The most common construction site injuries are trauma to the head and back, broken bones and lacerations, exposures to toxic substances, and burns.

Slip, Trip, and Fall Hazards

Slip and fall accidents take place most often in retail establishments, businesses, and on public walkways. Cluttered debris, insufficient lighting in halls and on stairways, and loose or missing handrails/guardrails can cause victims to fall or miss other details of their surroundings. Carpet tears, uneven floors, and wet or slippery floors may lead to lacerations, soft tissue injuries, broken limbs, neck injuries, and traumatic brain injuries. 

To pursue the correct theory of liability, victims and their at attorney should know the specifics regarding indoor vs. outdoor slip and fall claims. Variables examined for outdoor slip and fall claims frequently include:

  • Weather and lighting conditions
  • Parking garages and parking lots
  • Stairs  

Indoor slip and fall claim variables frequently include:

  • Floors, stairs, elevators, and escalators
  • Inattentive maintenance by employees
  • Lack of handicap accessibility

Swimming Pools

Swimming pool accident claims can take place at private residences, hotels and motels, water parks, and community and public pools. Residential property owners are required to provide supervision and follow fencing regulations. Public swimming pools require fences and lifeguards to be on duty at all times. Swimming pool accidents can vary, and claims often encompass slips and falls near the pool, diving board injuries, lacerations from sharp objects and infections, electrocution, and near-drowning or drowning.

Children are sadly common unsuspecting victims of premises liability claims. Children who are below a specific age cannot commit negligence due to their natural immaturity. Any child trespassing on private property will not be treated the same as trespassing adults. When kids are involved in an injury claim, it is much easier for the property owner to be found liable due to one or more attractive nuisances.

Examples of Attractive Nuisances in Illinois

The most common attractive nuisances are water features or bodies of water, construction materials, and toys. 

Water features and bodies of water are incredibly dangerous to curious children. It only takes a couple of inches of water for someone to be at risk of drowning. This means a child can potentially drown in almost every type of water feature. Water features may include kiddie pools, in-ground pools, hot tubs, water wells, and fountains.

Children are commonly drawn to construction sites. This means every type of construction task qualifies as an honest attractive nuisance. Kids may attempt to climb into construction sites and try to use tools to envision doing the work themselves.

Property owners buying playground equipment are procuring an attractive nuisance. Any toy or play equipment laying in a property owner’s yard could attract adventurous or lost children who know no better. Trampolines, swings, and climbing equipment are at the top of the list when it comes to attracting a child’s attention. 

Abandoned and unused vehicles may not be the first attractive nuisance risk that come to mind. However, many children who find a car that is not in use will presumably attempt to tamper with it out of curiosity. Kids may find themselves climbing onto or into the vehicle. Such actions may injure the child by being stuck in a tight space or even accidentally locked inside.

Steps to Prevent Attractive Nuisance Injuries

Most states have detailed guidance to help prevent unsuspecting children from suffering harm. It is the property owner’s responsibility to remain proactive in prevention. The easiest way for an owner to do this is to take a close look at his or her property. As he or she is scanning, the owner should try to imagine the yard from a curious child’s perspective. All potential risks should be removed or brought up to legal and sanitary codes. Should the owner choose to keep items on his or her property, he or she can take several precautions to promote the safest possible environment.

Old and broken appliances should be fenced or gated off and should have their doors removed. Fencing will help prevent any inquisitive children from entering the property where the potential hazards are stored. A no trespassing sign also helps remind visitors to stay out of the area.

Any water features on a property are required to have fencing at least four or five feet in height. This prevents others from falling or climbing in with ease. Pool ladders should be removed and pools should remain covered when not in use.  Children should never be left unattended near any water feature. Some pool owners even install floating alarms.

All power tools used on renovation projects should be unplugged after they are finished being used. All unsafe areas should be cordoned off and hazard or safety signs should be visible. Like corded power tools, power lines should not be left lying around on any property. 

Property owners should not overlook playground equipment that is left on the property. Equipment should be inspected once a year to ensure any wear and tear is noted and maintained. The surfaces surrounding all playground equipment should have a material installed that will absorb any shock experienced should a child fall, lessening the chances of injury.
Any object that can persuade a curious child into an area certifies as an attractive nuisance. Hazardous property conditions can lead to accidents that range vastly in severity. A premises liability attorney will help victims hold negligent property owners responsible for dangerous conditions.

About the Author

Kurt D. Lloyd is a plaintiff’s trial lawyer who focuses on medical malpractice and other catastrophic injury cases. He lives in Chicago and represents injured clients throughout Illinois. He is also the founder of Lloyd Miller Law, Ltd.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois

Kurt D. Lloyd is a plaintiff’s trial lawyer who focuses on medical malpractice and other catastrophic injury cases. He lives in Chicago and represents injured clients throughout Illinois. He is also the founder of Lloyd Miller Law, Ltd.

Years of Experience: Over 35 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar Admissions: Illinois State Bar