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My wife and I have been building a playhouse for our kids on the backyard. Our neighbor keeps telling my wife that we must put up a fence and/or get lots of insurance because if her son gets hurt in our playhouse, we're liable.

My question: if we don't invite her son into our yard/playhouse, and he finds his way there, and gets hurt, are we actually liable for that?

My intuition is that we're not. Example: if I jump into my neighbor's yard uninvitedly, and her dog bites me, they are not liable for this incident. However, if their dog breaks into my house and bites me, then they are responsible for it.

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    These kinds of laws depend a lot on where you live. Many municipalities require fences for pool areas for exactly this reason, because of liability for unauthorized use. Just because it's your property doesn't absolve you of liability. For example lets say you put a bunch of landmines in your property, if you don't have a fence, warning signs, etc, you can be held liable in most places... – Ron Beyer May 18 at 18:45
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    You might look up "attractive nuisance". – George White May 18 at 19:02
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    Very helpful advice. Was not aware of "attractive nuisance". Thanks! – rodrigo-silveira May 18 at 19:12
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    Good fences make good neighbors. – Mazura May 19 at 5:14
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    For an unknown reason, the defense on children's unpredicted behavior reminds me of LegalEagle's YouTube video on The Case of The Shotgun Booby Trap (Real True Crime) (the case is far more extreme than this question though) – Andrew T. May 19 at 7:46
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You can start here, with the attractive nuisance doctrine, which is aimed at children and the fact that they don't have adult common sense. The extent to which you are at risk depends on your jurisdiction. However, a fence does not necessarily protect you, because children can find a way to get around a fence, instead you need to eliminate the risk (so you also have to identify the risk). This article reviews some of the outcomes in attractive nuisance cases: there is no simple rule like "put up a fence and you're safe". Insurance is more predictable, as long as you read the fine print.

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  • Can you clarify, even if a child is/can be hurt this is not criminal, right? It's civil? – Andrew Savinykh May 19 at 22:32
  • Yes, it is a civil civil issue (given the scenario). – user6726 May 19 at 23:37

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