An attractive nuisance is something dangerous which could potentially appeal to children who may not comprehend the danger. People who maintain attractive nuisances can potentially be liable for injuries to children incurred on their property, in a deviation from legal conventions which often absolve property owners of liability for injuries which involve trespassers. The idea behind this doctrine is that children are vulnerable members of society because they may not grasp the dangers of things that adults understand pose safety risks, and thus that landowners need to take reasonable precautions to protect children from hazards.
Several conditions must be satisfied for something to be an attractive nuisance. The first condition is that it must be something which might appeal to or interest children, while also posing a safety risk. Additionally, landowners must have a reasonable expectation that children could access it. It must also be demonstrated that children might not understand the risk. If these conditions are satisfied, the property owner has a legal obligation to secure the attractive nuisance to make it difficult for children to access.
A classic example of an attractive nuisance is a swimming pool. People who have pools and live in areas where children are present are obliged to fence or otherwise secure their pools so that children cannot fall in. Likewise, things like abandoned equipment, empty buildings, stairways, wells, large animals, and so forth could all be attractive nuisances. In all of these cases, natural curiosity could be a child's undoing.
In addition to securing a potential attractive nuisance, landowners can take other steps to protect children and to safeguard against legal liability. Parents should be notified that their children are wandering a neighborhood and may be in danger and children can also be verbally warned. Posting signs can also help, although young children may not be able to read or understand warning signage and signs alone are not sufficient to secure an attractive nuisance. While there is not necessarily a legal obligation to do so, it is ethically advisable to alert neighbors to potential dangers spotted on their properties.
Attractive nuisances should also be considered when evaluating real estate for purchase. If a property contains something which might be deemed an attractive nuisance that is not properly secured, it may become a sticking point in the negotiations. The buyers could ask that the nuisance be secured or removed as part of the terms of sale.