Court Rejects Plaintiffs’ Premises Liability Case, Finding Parents’ Presence Limited Defendant’s Duty to Children

Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing the theory of premises liability as it pertained to a case involving a child who was seriously injured when a metal stanchion fell atop his finger. The case presents an interesting issue for Florida premises liability plaintiffs because it brings to light how the state’s attractive nuisance doctrine may be helpful to Florida plaintiffs in a similar situation.

Espresso MachineThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a young boy who was playing on a series of metal stanchions that were used to create a line at a coffee shop. The stanchions were large metal poles, weighted at the bottom and connected by chains.

After the plaintiff and his family had ordered their drinks and used the restroom, they began to exit the store. However, as the plaintiff’s mother was walking out ahead of her son, she heard the young boy start to scream. She turned around to see that one of the metal stanchions had fallen on her son’s hand. Witnesses to the accident explained that the boy and his brother were playing on the stanchions and swinging from the chains.

The family brought a premises liability lawsuit against the coffee shop, claiming it was negligent in the placement of the stanchions. The coffee shop defended against the lawsuit by claiming it did not owe any duty to the children because the dangers presented by the stanchions should have been obvious to the boys’ parents, and they should have taken action to prevent the injuries.

The Court’s Analysis

The court found in favor of the coffee shop, noting that any duty that would normally arise on behalf of the coffee shop was abrogated by the presence of the boy’s parents. In so holding, the court noted that the jurisdiction where the accident occurred did not apply the attractive nuisance doctrine, meaning that children are owed no greater a duty than adults.

Florida’s Attractive Nuisance Doctrine

In Florida, courts will apply the attractive nuisance doctrine. Normally, the doctrine is used to find a duty on the part of a landowner after a trespassing child is injured by some attractive nuisance on the defendant’s property. However, the doctrine has been applied to situations like the one described in the case above.

The considerations a court takes into account when determining if a landowner is liable under the attractive nuisance doctrine are whether:

  • the property owner is aware that there is a hazard on his property that may present a danger to children;
  • the hazard is known to present an unreasonable risk of harm to children;
  • the child, due to their age, does not appreciate the danger;
  • the burden of curing the danger is less than the risk posed to the child; and
  • the property owner failed to take corrective action.

Thus, if a child is injured – even while trespassing – due to a hazard that constitutes an attractive nuisance, the landowner may still be liable for the child’s injuries. Had the court in the case discussed above applied the attractive nuisance doctrine, a different result may have been reached.

Has Your Child Been Injured in a Slip-and-Fall Accident on Another Party’s Property?

If you have a child who was recently injured while on the property of another party, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. While the general rule is that trespassers are rarely permitted to recover for their injuries, when the injured trespasser is a child, a different set of rules may apply. To learn more, and to speak with a dedicated South Florida premises liability attorney about your case, call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Court Discusses Official Government Immunity in Recent Wrongful Death Case, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published February 19, 2017.

Additur and Remittur: A Judge’s Ability to Adjust a Jury’s Verdict in Florida, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published March 5, 2018.

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