As any parent can attest, there is virtually no limit to the
mischief unsupervised children can cause. The variety of items that
will arouse their curiosity and become their playthings is equally
limitless—and construction sites can be especially attractive
to curious children. Although the possibility a child will climb
ladders, play with materials or attempt to operate heavy machinery
is given little thought by many roofing contractors when securing
materials and equipment at the end of the day or week, children can
expose roofing contractors to extensive liability under a legal
doctrine known as "attractive nuisance."
Generally speaking, an owner or occupier of land—a
classification that includes contractors while work is in
progress—is not required to exercise care to ensure
trespassers' safety. The only obligation is to avoid willful,
wanton or reckless conduct that is likely to injure trespassers,
reflecting the high priority given to property rights. The
attractive nuisance doctrine is an exception to this favoring of
unrestrained property rights and instead gives primacy to child
Nearly every state has adopted a rule requiring contractors to
exercise reasonable care to protect against foreseeable dangers to
child trespassers, balancing property rights against society's
interest in protecting children. Failure to exercise this
reasonable care may render you liable in the event of a trespassing
child's personal injury or death.
Essentially, the attractive nuisance doctrine is grounded in the
law of negligence as it applies to conditions that are highly
dangerous to trespassing children. You are not required to make
trespass by or injury to a child impossible nor must you guard
against remote or improbable injuries. Instead, you only are
required to do what is reasonable under...
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