My neighbor has a trampoline in an unfenced yard. My 5-year-old son went over one day, without permission to do so, and played on the trampoline. Unfortunately, he fell off it and broke his arm. I asked my neighbor to help pay for the medical costs. He threatened to sue me for my child's trespassing. What can I do?
Jumpy Jimmy's Mom
Ordinarily, a property owner only has a duty to not intentionally hurt a trespasser. However, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, an owner of land who creates a condition upon the premises that may reasonably be expected to attract young children and to constitute a danger to them, is under a duty to exercise ordinary care, that is, to take the precautions that a reasonably prudent person would take, under similar circumstances, to prevent injury to such children. This may include fencing off the area.
You will need to demonstrate that the exception applies in your case. To do this, you would need to prove the trampoline was dangerous and likely to or probably would cause injury to those coming into contact with it. Next, that it was attractive or enticing to a young child. Also, that your son was incapable, by reason of age, of comprehending the danger involved. Additionally, you would need to show that your son had access to the place and would go there because of youthful curiosity. Finally, you would have to show that the neighbor could have reasonably prevented the injury if he had done something, such as built a fence.
I hope your son is doing better now.
John Hartzell is a practicing Walla Walla attorney. No attorney-client relationship is established via this column, which is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Any information given is to illustrate basic legal concepts and does not state how any court would decide any matter. Have a question? Ask John at firstname.lastname@example.org.