In a previous post discussing Premises Liability, we briefly noted two (2) relevant legal doctrines – Attractive Nuisance and Sovereign Immunity. We will address Sovereign Immunity and the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act in a subsequent post, but today we want to discuss the other doctrine: Attractive Nuisance.
Premises Liability, property owners have a duty of reasonable care to anyone entering their property. The highest duty of care is owed to those who have express or implied permission to be on that property, known as invitees and licensees under Massachusetts law. An example of this are patrons of a restaurant or supermarket. Trespassers are owed the lowest duty, i.e., people who enter a property without permission. A trespasser cannot sue a property owner for injuries suffered on that property except under “unusually dangerous” situations. There is; however, one group of potential trespassers to whom property owners still owe the duty of reasonable care: young children. This is where the doctrine of attractive nuisance applies. Under this doctrine, property owners can still be found liable for injuries caused to a young child, even one who is trespassing.
Massachusetts defines an attractive nuisance as an artificial condition on the property owner’s land that can “attract” children to trespass onto the land and lead to injury. This means that a natural pond, rock face, or other natural condition on the property is not subject to the laws of attractive nuisance.