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What is the attractive nuisance doctrine?

As spring arrives in New York, children start to emerge in greater numbers from their homes and resume those outdoor activities that the cold weather often prevents. With more children outside playing comes the added responsibility for property owners to see to their safety. You may go to great lengths to ensure that the children in the neighborhoods where you live or own property understand if there is anything on those properties that may be a danger to them. Often, however, your warnings may not be enough to extinguish their curiosity. 

This prompts the question of what degree of liability can be attributed to you if a child is harmed on your property. Teens and pre-teens may have the comprehension needed to understand whatever written or verbal warnings that you offer to protect them from any dangerous features of your property. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for smaller children. They might be able to read or comprehend warning signs, or the nature of the attraction on your property may prove too enticing to them. For example, if you own construction equipment that is stored on a job site, they may not comprehend the risk that may come from playing on it (or with it). 

According to the Cornell Law School, the attractive nuisance doctrine allows you to be held liable for injuries sustained by young children from using or playing with dangerous attractions on your property (this is true even if the kids are on your property without permission). You may escape from being held liable, however, if you take action to restrict access to it. Erecting a fence, storing equipment in a locked building or garage, or placing security at a site are all steps that might limit your liability in these situations. 

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