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Landowner Liability for Dangerous Conditions

Posted on July 6, 2016

In recent news, a two-year-old boy was killed after an alligator dragged him through a lagoon on the famous Disney World Orlando resort. The boy was playing in shallow water around dusk with his family at the Seven Seas Lagoon when the alligator attacked him. While there were ‘No Swimming’ signs posted around the lagoon, there was no mention of the presence of alligators. As the investigation continues, questions have been raised about Disney’s premises liability laws, what responsibility was owed to the child and his family, and whether the attractive nuisance doctrine would be applicable.

As previously discussed on this blog, property owners have various levels of safety they must maintain when another person is on the property. As an invitee, the property owner owes a duty to warn of concealed dangers as well as to inspect the premises. Children specifically are owed the highest duty of care by property owners, as compared to a reasonable duty of care owed to other adults.

Attractive Nuisance Doctrine

Additionally, landowners owe a particularly distinct duty to children who trespass, under the attractive nuisance doctrine. This doctrine was developed to acknowledge and account for the fact that children are not able to understand and consider the dangers or risks on premises when they enter them illegally.

In Oklahoma specifically, a landowner is liable for the injury or death of a child trespasser from a highly dangerous artificial condition on the land if it can be established:

  • The owner had reason to know children would trespass on the land,
  • The condition was one that would be unusually attractive to children and posed an unreasonable risk of injury or death,
  • The child came onto the property based on the attraction to the condition,
  • The child lacked the mental ability to realize the risk,
    • Mental capacity and understanding is based on these factors:
      • Children under seven cannot appreciate the risk from these dangerous conditions
      • Children 7 – 14 years old are presumed to also lack the capacity to appreciate but that can be overcome in court
      • Children 14 and older must prove they lack ability to appreciate the risk
  • The ability of the owner to maintain or eliminate the risk were slight comparatively,
  • The injury was directly caused by the failure to eliminate the danger through reasonable care.

We Can Help You Today

Premises liability cases can be extremely complex. As such, it is in your best interests to reach out to the attorneys at the office of Charles Bryan Alred, PC in Tulsa to discuss your case. We can help you today by calling (918) 745-9960