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The Duty of Care Owed to Child Trespassers

With or without permission, children and adults will often enter onto your property.  In general, you typically only have to warn adults about hidden dangers on your property.   However, the law recognizes that children are much more vulnerable, and so Mississippi landowners owe a higher duty of care to young trespassers who may enter their property.

Duty of Care to Adults

There are three types of people who can enter your property: invitees, licensees, and trespassers. An invitee is someone who has the explicit permission of the landowner to enter the property. Any visitor invited to the premises is legally considered an invitee, while a licensee is someone with permission to be on the property, but less of an explicit invitation to be there, such as someone retrieving an item left on the property following a party. Trespassers, of course, have received no permission to be on the land.

Landowners have a duty to keep their property reasonably safe for invitees and warn them of any unforeseen dangers, while for licensees the duty of care is to not act negligently. These are much higher standards of care than the legal requirement of not willfully harming adult trespassers with the likes of booby traps or spring guns.

Child Trespassers and Attractive Nuisances

The law is less stringent toward child trespassers because they simply may not understand that trespassing is wrong, and can be less aware of how dangerous it may be to enter another’s land. Thus, landowners are responsible for any injuries sustained by child trespassers, and must go even further to protect them from potentially attractive nuisances.

For example, while an adult will likely recognize the dangers of unattended construction equipment, children will often have no idea that such machines are potentially dangerous, and may in fact be attracted to playing with them.

The 1980 case Hughes v. Star Homes, Inc. outlined the elements that a plaintiff must establish in order to prove a child was injured by an attractive nuisance and the homeowner is responsible for the injuries sustained by the child:

  • The homeowner knew or reasonably should have known of the dangerous condition on the land.
  • The homeowner knew or reasonably should have been aware that children often gathered where the dangerous condition existed.
  • It was unlikely that the child could have appreciated the danger of the condition.
  • The dangerous condition could have been corrected with minimal expense to the property owner.

What exactly constitutes an attractive nuisance is an issue that has occasionally come before Mississippi courts. Some conditions that have been declared attractive nuisances that could have reasonably been kept away from children are railroad turntables, unexploded ordinance, and dynamite. However, any condition that meets the criteria articulated above would likely be considered an attractive nuisance by a court.

Contact Us For Help With Your Case

If your child has been injured while on someone else’s land, they may be entitled  to be compensated for the lack of care shown by the property owner. The Mississippi personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy Guice can help. Contact our office today for an initial consultation.

750 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd
Biloxi, Mississippi 39530
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