Premises liability refers to the obligations of property owners and managers to keep their premises safe for third parties who have either explicit or implied permission to be there. This is an important component of personal injury law in Florida and elsewhere in the country (and world). Broadly speaking, there are three types of people in the world of premises liability:
Invitees receive the strongest legal protections from property owners and managers. In other words, it is easier for invitees who are injured on a premises to receive compensation than licensees. Licensees are people who are legally allowed to be on the premises but have not been invited onto the property. Trespassers who are injured while on someone else’s property are almost never awarded compensation from the property owner or manager. There is one notable exception that Florida property owners, managers, AND general contractors need to know.
What is An Attractive Nuisance?
An attractive nuisance is something on a property that entices children to trespass on the property. Perhaps the most common example of an attractive nuisance is a swimming pool; every summer, we often hear about unattended toddlers who tragically drown after wandering into pools. There are many other real-life examples of attractive nuisances, including upright ladders, power tools, and other equipment you might find on a construction site. If a particular child is unable to grasp the risks of going onto a construction site and gets injured after engaging with an attractive nuisance, the general contractor or other entity exerting control over the site could be on the hook for damages.
When is a Contractor Liable for an Attractive Nuisance-Caused Injury?
Generally, five conditions must exist in order to prove that a general contractor should be held liable after a child is injured.
- The contractor must have known that a child may trespass on the premises where a dangerous conditions exists;
- The contractor knew or should have known that the dangerous condition would post a significant risk to a child;
- The injured child did not recognize the danger because of his or her age;
- The burden of removing the dangerous condition is slight compared to the child’s risk; and
- The contractor did not take “reasonable” steps to remove the dangerous condition or otherwise protect the child from the dangerous condition.
What Should You Do?
A good start at protecting your company from attractive nuisance claims is installing signage around the dangerous conditions that warn trespassers of the inherent risks. If you are at all able to do so, install some type of fencing around conditions that could be designated as attractive nuisances. At the end of each workday, clear out debris and anything else you can. Proper communication with your subcontractors and suppliers is also important.
If you have been sued in relation to an attractive nuisance claim or think you might be, reach out to Florida Construction Law Group today to see how we can help. There are a number of defenses you might be able to raise in court. Regardless, you need to act promptly to put yourself and your construction firm in a good position. Call our team at (305) 227-4030 to set up a time to speak with an attorney.