Who do you have to protect?
Under Illinois law, you owe anyone that you invite onto your property “a duty of reasonable care.” This means that you are liable for any dangers except those:
• That you did not know about
• That were obvious and could be seen by any guests
• Caused by your guests because they misused your property
You do not owe this duty to trespassers, however. Even if you knew about the risk, and the danger was not clearly marked, you would not be responsible.
You would only be at fault for a trespasser’s injury if you engaged in “willful and wanton conduct” that hurt them. In other words, you can’t injure them on purpose. Short of extreme cases—such as you openly firing a gun around your property—you usually wouldn’t be liable.
What if a child trespasses on your property?
The law treats adult and child trespassers differently. As the property owner, you have a higher duty of care to protect children who may wander onto your property. The “attractive nuisance” rule states that if there is a dangerous object or condition on your property that could attract a child—such as a swimming pool or construction equipment—you must take steps to protect against injury.
You could be liable if a child was injured due to an attractive nuisance if the following requirements are met:
• You could have (within reason) made the situation safer
• You knew that children could trespass near the hazard
• The item on your property was inherently dangerous to children
If you can prove that any of these aren’t true, it might not matter that your uninvited guests are underage.
There are risks to both you and others if people trespass on your potentially dangerous property. Knowing whether you are responsible for a person’s safety might make things slightly less stressful.