What is the Duty of a City, Homeowner, or Business with Septic or Lift Stations for Restroom Sewage? Risk of Injury to Children – Attractive Nuisance

Scales-of-Justice-Yellow-and-Blue-150x150In the State of Florida, a property owner or landowner whether a private person, business, or government entity has a duty to maintain the premises under the property owner’s control in a reasonably safe manner. The is especially important for areas in which children are present.  It is well known that children, especially toddlers, are curious and will often wander into areas that are not built for the play or presence of children. For instance, it is important for property owners and landowners to fence off hazardous areas including those related to waterways, electrical equipment, steep areas, and any other areas in which a child may get stuck, trapped, or otherwise injured.
Septic or lift stations for restroom sewage can be commonly be seen in many Florida communities.  It is vital that the lids to septic or lift stations are safely secured and in place.  If there is any risk that a young child can remove the lid or slip through the lid into the hole into the ground or the septic area, a child can be at significant risk for drowning.  There are a number of causes for covers to be damages, unsecured, and out of place.  When this happens, it is important for a property owner to take swift action to seal off the area, and repair or replace the lid.
Attractive Nuisance is a legal concept in which applies to situation in which a child is lawfully on property or even trespassing on the premises. If the child is injured by an area or object that is likely to attract children, a property owner or landowner can be held liable if it can be shown that the property owner or landowner knew or should have known about the attractive nuisance but failed to take action to fix the problem, secure the dangerous area, or remove the danger area / problem from the premises.
At times, a tragedy can take place in the community in which a young child is serious injured or even dies on property or land controlled by another person, business, or government entity. Just because a child is injured or dies, it does not mean that a person, business, or government entity must be held liable; however, each case involving a personal injury or death of a child should be thoroughly investigated by government authorities to determine the foreseeability and preventability of such an incident. Furthermore, the family of the injured child can conduct an investigation of its own to determine the liability or fault of others.
It was recently reported that a 3 year old boy, Amari Harley, died as a result of being trapped in a septic tank at a City of Jackonville park – Bruce Park.  The City of Jacksonville has 76 parks with septic or lift systems for restroom storage. It was reported that the area in question was inspected the month prior to the incident at question.  Since a child died, there will be a full investigation by one or more government agencies in the City of Jacksonville.  It was reported that Bruce Park had a bolt covering in place.  As part of the investigation, it is important that it is determine the cause and manner for the child’s entry into the septic area.
Several years ago, I handled a case involving a young child in Florida who tragically was electrocuted when he enticed an area with an electrical transformer.  The area at question was not properly secured and the child quite easily gained access into the area. Investigation of the incident determined that a lock and chain could have been purchased for less than $20 which could have avoided the incident entirely.  Unfortunately, the remedies and revisions to the electrical area was too little too late.
In light of the tragic death of Amari Harley, the City of Jacksonville should certainly re-inspect all septic and lift stations to make sure each is properly maintained and safely secured against entry or movement by a small child.
Based in Jacksonville, Florida, attorney David Wolf has over 27 years of experience representing injured children and their families.  He is the author of 11 books including the book titled The ABCs of Child Injury – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Every Parent Should Know. You can get this book for free at The ABCs of Child Injury.