Florida Children Die in Freezer Negligently Left Out On Lawn
A tragedy that occurred in Florida in mid-January has left local communities devastated. Three children who were playing outside died after climbing into an unplugged freezer, reportedly because the lid closed and automatically locked on them and they were unable to get out after climbing inside to play. Their caretaker went to use the bathroom, and when she came back outside, the children could not be found. Once found inside the freezer, unfortunately, the children could not be resuscitated.
But why was this freezer left open on the property where the children played, without a padlock? And is this a premises liability issue—an “attractive nuisance,” whereby the landowner knew or should have known that children would come onto the property and the freezer could have caused death or serious bodily harm, especially to children who were too young to understand the risks of getting inside it? According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, most children who suffocate after climbing into appliances like these are between the ages of four and seven, and are in the process of playing hide and seek.
Federal & State Law Already Seeks To Prevent This from Happening
In fact, household appliances left on lawns has become such a safety hazard in Florida that authorities have, for years, worked on ways of preventing these types of deaths. One of those laws—the Federal Refrigerator Safety Act—banned refrigerators from having the kind of latches that trapped these children inside the freezer, and forced other manufacturers to meet additional safety standards. Florida also makes it illegal to abandon or discard freezers and similar appliances without first removing the doors. For failing to do so, you can face up to 60 days in jail, and pay a $500 fine for the misdemeanor.
Moreover, the courts have long held that a property owner can be held liable for harm caused to children, even if they were trespassing, under the rule of “attractive nuisance.” In other words, property owners must be sensitive to any dangerous conditions that could be attractive to children, and post warnings or take other steps to protect children from this harm. This doesn’t tend to involve natural conditions, such as creeks, but rather man-made conditions (i.e. leaving an appliance that a child can climb into, outside, on the lawn, with the doors on them and a lock that cannot be opened from the inside even though the law dictates that you remove the doors before discarding any appliance).
Contact Our Florida Premises Liability Attorneys
Cases like these are not only extremely tragic, but they can also be very complicated. While no property owner sets out to purposefully harm children, the fact remains that when people do not comply with the law, innocents often get hurt.
If you or a loved one has been harmed by a condition on someone’s property, contact our Florida premises liability attorneys at Lavalle, Brown & Ronan today to find out more about your options.