Trees offer many benefits, such as providing shade in the summer. However, there are drawbacks to owning trees, one of which is they can grow big enough to intermingle with power lines. This is a problem, because anyone who climbs the tree can be seriously injured if they come into contact with the electric wires. Normally adults can see and understand the danger. If a child climbs the tree and gets hurt, though, are you liable for the incident?
Depends on the Circumstances
In situations involving adults, liability would rest on whether the person was legally allowed to be on your property and knew the danger associated with climbing the tree. Children, however, add a layer of complexity to the situation in that you could still be held liable for kids who are injured when trespassing on your property due to attractive nuisance statutes.
These laws hold you liable for a child's injuries if the kid was drawn to your property by something that looked inviting to them. Swimming pools are common attractive nuisances as are fountains and ponds, especially if they contain marine life such as fish. Anything artificial that could potentially grab a child's attention and make them want to get at it could be seen as an attractive nuisance.
However, trees and other natural conditions or elements (e.g. hills) are typically not considered attractive nuisances. This is likely because they are seen as part of the natural landscape. However, a tree can be classified as an attractive nuisance if it contains an artificial condition that makes it more intriguing to youngsters. This may include putting decorations on it, installing a tire swing, or building a tree house.
If a child was drawn to the tree because of something you placed in or on it and was hurt as a result, then you may be liable for his or her injuries if you didn't take proper precautions to warn of the potential dangers or keep uninvited kids off your property.
Second Area of Liability
Even if you could get around attractive nuisance liability issues, you may still be held financially responsible for a child's injuries if he or she is electrocuted after climbing your tree and interacting with the power lines. As a homeowner, you are responsible for taking care of hazards on your property or adequately warning people the hazard exists so they can avoid injuring themselves. Having a tree whose branches intersect with power lines could easily be seen as a hazardous condition you failed to fix.
You can avoid liability with this issue by keeping the tree trimmed the minimum distance away from the power lines, which is usually determined by the utility company. For instance, Oncor Electric Delivery Co. cuts tree branches so they are a minimum of 10 feet, 4 inches away from power lines. Removing artificial items like rope swings and putting a gate around your property may also help.
If you are being sued by the parents of a child who was injured from climbing a tree on your property, contact a personal injury attorney who can help you build a viable defense. Click here to learn more about judgement.