Can Parents Recover for Injuries to Trespassing Children Under the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine?

Maryland landowners owe a duty of care to those who are on their property. The extent of the duty that a landowner owes to a visitor depends on several factors: primarily, whether the visitor was welcomed onto the land by the landowner and the purpose of the visit.

In Maryland, there are three classes of visitors: trespassers, licensees, and invitees. A trespasser accesses another’s property without permission. A licensee is most commonly a social guest. And finally, an invitee is someone who is on a property for business purposes, such as a customer. Not surprisingly, a landowner owes a trespasser less of a duty than she owes a licensee or an invitee. In fact, in Maryland, a landowner owes a trespasser no affirmative duty of care, and must only refrain from willfully causing them injury.

When it comes to trespassing children, however, many courts across the United States apply the attractive nuisance doctrine. The attractive nuisance doctrine allows for a landowner to be held liable for injuries that are caused to a child by some aspect of the landowner’s property that attracted the child onto the land. Typically, the landowner must know the danger as well as the fact that children may have access to their property. In addition, courts require that the child’s age be such that it prevented them from fully understanding the risk of entering the property.

Maryland courts have repeatedly refused to officially adopt the attractive nuisance doctrine. However, Maryland courts have held that a duty may arise to protect even a trespassing child from a harm that is the subject of a regulation. In one case, the court explained that the defendant’s pool was not properly fenced. A child wandered onto the defendant’s property and drowned in the unfenced pool. The child’s family filed a wrongful death case against the landowner. The landowner argued that the child was a trespasser and that he owed no duty to him. The court, however, looked to the fact that the defendant’s pool was in direct violation of a statute that was specifically designed to protect children from drowning. Under these facts, the court concluded that the child’s family could pursue a claim against the landowner, even though the child was trespassing.

So, while the attractive nuisance doctrine does not technically apply in Maryland courts, there are some situations where a landowner can be held liable for injuries caused to a trespassing child.

Has Your Child Been Injured on Another’s Property?

If your child has recently been injured in a Maryland swimming pool accident, or any other accident occurring on another person’s property, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Maryland premises liability lawsuit. The dedicated Maryland injury attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have extensive experience handling all types of Maryland injury claims, including premises liability cases. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Appellate Court Rejects Defendant’s Appeal Based on Allegedly Misleading Jury Instruction, Maryland Accident Law Blog, February 4, 2019.

Contributory Negligence in Maryland Premises Liability Cases, Maryland Accident Law Blog, February 18, 2019.

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