Rhode Island Supreme Court Rejects Burn Injury Case – “Attractive Nuisance” Doctrine Not Applicable

The Rhode Island Supreme Court has held that a 17-year old young man could not rely on the attractive nuisance doctrine to impose liability on the State of Rhode Island.

The plaintiff and some friends entered a closed mental health facility that was locked and marked "No Trespass."  Along the way, he was burned when a bottle of sulfuric acid in the building burst.  The trial court rejected his case, and Rhode Island’s highest court affirmed the dismissal.

Regrettably, plaintiff was old enough to appreciate the risk of breaking into an abandoned building and of transporting a substance he “had reason to believe” was hazardous; his injury was the result of a failure to protect himself, rather than an inability to protect himself. Accordingly, it was not clearly erroneous for the trial justice to hold that plaintiff failed to establish that he was too young to appreciate the risk, and thus that the doctrine of attractive nuisance is inapplicable to this case. 

The opinion does a through job of explaining the law of attractive nuisance, relying largely on the Restatement (Second) of Torts.

The case is Burton v. State of Rhode Island, No. 2012-213-Appeal,  No. 2012-268-Appeal (R.I. Dec. 20, 2013).

Hat tip to the Legal Profession Blog.