At first, the legal doctrine of the “attractive nuisance” may sound a little humorous. Are there any attractive nuisances on Florida beaches?

The reality is that Florida homeowners can face enormous legal liability if they maintain something that fits the definition. And whether they are familiar with the legal jargon or not, an attractive nuisance harming young children is the stuff of nightmares for virtually every parent around the world.

Reasonable property rights meet a healthy child’s mind

Children are curious. Many bright children want to, and will, explore unusual features of their world.

In the 1800s, for example, railroad companies built massive iron “railway turntables” at certain locations, allowing locomotives to turn around to face the direction from which they came. Children loved to play on these merry-go-rounds, located on railroad company property.

Railway turntables maimed and killed many children before 1875 when a judge in Minnesota outlined the basic principle of the attractive nuisance, variations of which are used across the U.S. today.

Attractive nuisances invite Florida children onto others’ land

Florida laws and court cases have created the state’s rules for testing if something on your land, or what injured your child, is an attractive nuisance. If all these are true, it may be:

  • The owner should or does know children are likely to find their way to it.
  • The owner should or does know it would be unreasonably dangerous to children.
  • Making it reasonably safe for children would not be an unreasonable burden to the owner.
  • The owner did not do what they reasonably could have done to make it safe.
  • The child’s age kept them from understanding they should not venture into or mess with the nuisance.

A child’s natural curiosity attracts them to interesting places and things, and they cannot always understand what is and is not dangerous.

So, Florida might not treat the child as a trespasser, for whom landowners have less responsibility, but rather as an invited guest. The danger lures or entices the child like an appealing invitation. And the landowner may have to pay large damage awards in a situation like that.