Premises Liability for Trespassers in PA
Many people struggle with the idea that a property owner can be liable for injuries sustained by a trespasser on his or her property. The truth is that in most circumstances the duty owed by a landowner to an unknown trespasser is very limited. However, there are still situations where holding a landowner liable for injuries sustained by trespassers makes sense. Pennsylvania law recognizes this and does impose liability for injuries suffered by trespassers under certain circumstances.
Pennsylvania follows the doctrine of attractive nuisance. This is a common law doctrine that provides that a landowner may be liable for certain injuries suffered by minor children present on his or her property even if they were there without permission. This rule applies when all of the following elements exist:
- The owner knows or should know that a condition present on his or her land makes it likely children may trespass.
- The owner knows or should know that the same condition also poses a serious risk of death or injury to those children.
- The children are unable to appreciate the serious risk that the condition creates.
- The burden of making the condition safe is slight when compared to the danger it poses.
- The owner, nevertheless, fails to take reasonable steps to make the condition safe.
The most common example of an attractive nuisance is a swimming pool. However, there are numerous other property features that can qualify if their dangerous nature should be obvious to an adult and the burden of alleviating that danger is comparatively slight. Parents whose children have been injured while trespassing on someone else’s property should not assume they are without recourse and should consult an experienced Lancaster County premises liability attorney immediately.