Halloween, Ghoulish Trespassers and the Attractive Nuisance
As Halloween approaches, homeowners and renters must anticipate the patter of little feet as diminutive ghouls, goblins, princesses, ninjas, monsters and extraterrestrials make their way to their doorstep. Is the path from the sidewalk to your door reasonably safe for children, especially in the dark? If not, you could be liable for injuries that occur on your property.
In times past, landowners and tenants who controlled the property owed a duty of care to invited guests and licensees. A licensee was anyone who had a legal purpose to be on the property, such as a letter carrier or meter reader. Landowners had a very limited duty towards trespassers, except when it came to children who might be drawn onto the property by what was called an attractive nuisance.
The law imposed a duty on landowners to make their property reasonably safe for children, if it were likely that children might be curious about something on the property and try to explore it. Your Halloween decorations could certainly qualify as an attractive nuisance, but such ornaments could be interpreted to go even further. Especially on Halloween night, your decorations almost certainly create an implied invitation for children to enter your property.
If a trick-or-treater is injured on your property, it is not necessarily your fault. Children often wear costumes that interfere with their movements and render them awkward. If the fault for a trip-and-fall lies with the costume and not a defect in your property, it doesn’t matter where the fall occurred.
However, to be on the safe side, this is a good time of year to check your path for loose or uneven stones, and make sure the railing to your front porch is firm. Clear the path of any leaves that may have fallen, and make sure there is adequate illumination at night.
A slip-and-fall accident can seriously injure a pedestrian. If you’ve suffered a fall and want to know your rights, take advantage of a free consultation at Brown, Novick & McKinley in Woodbury, New Jersey. Call us at 866-942-4909 or contact us online.