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Monday, April 14, 2008

Avoiding homeowners' liability isn't child's play ...

Minnesota Lawyer has an interesting lead story this week (doesn't it always?) sprouting from a Court of Appeals case that discusses the duty you owe a child visitor in your home. Are you liable when little Junior comes over with his mom or dad, tips over your Ming vase and cuts himself on one of the pieces?

Probably not. This scenario is not altogether different than what occurred in Foss v. Kincade, et al. That case involved a 3-year-old boy who, while visiting the homeowner's house with his mother, was injured when he tipped over a bookcase. (The Minnesota Lawyer story, written by Michelle Lore, is "Injured child’s lawsuit against homeowner dismissed.") Two key facts in the case were that the mother was present to supervise the child, and the plaintiff in the case (the child's father) admitted that the danger the bookcase posed was obvious.

But what if the facts had been different? What if the mother had not been there? What if the homeowner had been acting as a babysitter? What if the homeowner was being paid for doing the babysitting? What if the homeowner's daughter was being paid to doing the babysitting? What if the danger had not been so obvious?

Despite the favorable result in this case, if you have no kids but expect child visitors upon occassion, you may want to switch from wine glasses to sippy cups ...

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