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What makes an office an "office" has been changing recently. Workplaces are more open, inviting, and include rest areas, games, and even slides. Businesses seem to want to make themselves fun places to hang out. But when does attracting customers become an attractive nuisance?
Here's what small biz owners need to know.
"Attractive nuisance" generally refers to an aspect of private property that might catch the attention of children, but could be dangerous. The classic example is a swimming pool, and the law places a special responsibility on property owners to take steps to protect the children who may wander onto the property. Failure to take those steps, like not putting a fence around a pool, can make the property owner liable for any injuries sustained by a child. And while the attractive nuisance doctrine is more often applied to private homeowners, small business owners should be wary as well.
There is no set list of attractive nuisances, but most courts require that the object be fabricated and many require that the property owner "maintain" the nuisance to be liable. So natural formations like ponds and trees are not considered nuisances. But many other objects common to small businesses could be, like fountains and landscaping; wells and tunnels; paths and stairs; and machinery, including lawnmowers, gasoline pumps, and tools.
And who counts as "children" under attractive nuisance can vary as well. Teenagers are still considered children in many courts, so attractive nuisance liability is not limited to only very young children.
While you may not be required to "childproof" your small business, taking some basic steps to prevent injury can go a long way toward avoiding a lawsuit. Courts tend to frown on small business owners who appear not to care or fail to put any effort into ensuring safety on their property. Also, your state and local laws and building regulations could address potential attractive nuisances, so abiding by local ordinances can be evidence that you took the proper steps to keep customers and the public safe.
For help ensuring that your small business is not unreasonably dangerous for children, contact an experienced injury defense attorney.