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Attractive Nuisance Doctrine Can Protect Injured Young NC Trespassers From Liability

By Brown Moore

January 09, 2015

Home News & Resources Attractive Nuisance Doctrine Can Protect Injured Young NC Trespassers From Liability

North Carolina’s contributory negligence law can often eliminate the rights of injury victims when they have even a small degree of liability for their accidents. Thus, it stands to reason that a trespasser would have few grounds for a claim against a property owner who maintains dangerous premises. If the trespasser is an adult, this would be true; however, a Charlotte injury lawyer would say that the legal issues are very different when the injury victim is a child.

Children are Drawn to Hazardous Situations

The combination of curiosity and lack of fear and experience puts children at great risk of injury when they venture, without permission, into unsafe places such as the following:

  • Pools
  • Trampolines
  • Construction sites
  • Commercial buildings
  • Junk piles

When those places are not properly protected against access, North Carolina law typically permits legal action in spite of negligence by the young injury victims. As explained by Campbell Law Review, this is known as the “Attractive Nuisance Doctrine.”

This doctrine completely relieves children under age 7 of negligence under any circumstances. Older children are held to increasing negligence standards, as appropriate.

Of course, these determinations are often rather subjective. A skilled injury attorney has the experience needed to present compelling evidence to help ensure a child’s rights to fair compensation.

Possible Exceptions to the Doctrine

Even though NC law leans strongly in favor of protecting the rights of injured children, property owners may not be held liable in certain situations, such as the following:

  • Extraordinary attempts at access: Virtually any child can gain access to an attractive nuisance protected by a four-foot chain-link fence or an unlocked door. However, if children have to bring special equipment — such as ladders or crowbars — the law may recognize that this type of forethought illustrates their ability to make better decisions.
  • Excessive burden to property owner: In some cases, property owners meet or exceed reasonable safety standards. Further protection might be costly and beyond measures, a reasonable person can expect. For example, if an area that is already well-protected requires a metal building around it for full safety, judges or juries may decide to find in favor of the property owner in a premises liability case.
  • Defining what constitutes an attractive nuisance: Children might be attracted to virtually anything they see, but that does not mean property owners need to fully childproof their premises beyond making reasonable efforts. Again, the definition may be subjective, but a lawyer can help parents decide if it makes sense to pursue a claim.

Complex Circumstances Require Knowledgeable Legal Advice

The Attractive Nuisance Doctrine makes a significant difference in how the state’s premises liability law operates when children are involved. Even if children are injured due to their own actions, parents need to seek experienced legal support to learn their rights to recover damages under the law. Call Brown Moore and Associates at 800-948-0577, or use our convenient online contact form to schedule a free initial consultation.