An old proverb says “it takes a village to raise a child.” The same might be said about protecting one, as well. Parents in Cleveland do all that they can to instill sound judgment in their children, yet kids remain curious about the unknown (often to their own peril). Thus, adults are also often tasked with protecting children from themselves. The attractive nuisance doctrine is just one example of this.
Per the definition offered by the Cornell Law School, the attractive nuisance doctrine holds property owners liable when children suffer injuries from encounters with dangerous features on their land. Common “attractive nuisances” may include swimming pools, abandoned buildings or vehicles, or canals and tunnels. The common element shared by these attractions is that they may entice children who do not yet comprehend the dangers they present. Property owners, therefore, must takes reasonable steps to restrict access to them or face responsibility for any injuries or damage they cause. The attractive nuisance doctrine can be applied even in cases where a child was on someone’s property without permission.
Ohio courts failed to enforce the attractive nuisance doctrine for many years (even going back to the days when it was referred to as “the turntable doctrine,” due to its original association with railroad turntables). However, a state Supreme Court ruling in 2001 reversed that trend. In its decision, the Court recognized that societal changes (e.g.: population growth, urban expansion) require now that added responsibility be placed on adults to protect children. The Court has even gone so far as to extend certain elements of protection afforded under the attractive nuisance doctrine to adults. Property owners now also may be viewed as having a duty of care to protect adults who come on to their properties to protect kids from attractive nuisances.