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Special rules for property owners with respect to children

In general in Florida, there are different written and unwritten rules for adults and children. Some rules remain the same but, for example, people do not treat an adult in the same manner they would treat a seven-year-old child. There is an understanding that children's brains have not fully developed yet and in many situations they do not realize the consequences of their decisions and need much stricter guidance in order to make the right decision.

This general concept is also true as it relates to premises liability laws in Florida. Normally property owners' level of care owed to people on their property depends on why the person is on the property. In general a property owner owes trespassers the lowest level of care. Only when the property owner purposely does something to injure a trespasser will they be liable for any injuries.

However, if the trespasser is a child, the property owner may also be liable if there is an attractive nuisance on the property which caused the child to enter the property. This is known as the attractive nuisance doctrine. It is applicable when certain conditions are present.

These are whether the dangerous property condition was in a place where children would trespass, that the danger caused the child to enter the property, that the owner knew or should have known that the condition could cause serious injuries, that the child because of their age did not understand the dangers, the benefit of the property condition to the owner is small compared to the harm it can cause children and the owner did not take proper steps to remove the dangerous condition or keep children safe from it.

Many children are harmed in Florida in situations where an adult would not be harmed because the child did not know the dangers associated with a certain activity or object. That is why property owners have a greater responsibility to keep them safe on their property. These are very fact specific cases though and experienced attorneys may be a useful resource.

Source: edis.ifas.ufl.edu, "Handbook of Florida Fence and Property Law: Visitors and Responsibilities to Visitors" accessed on July 3, 2017

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