Railroads -- The Nuisance that Started it All
Railroads played a major role in the creation of attractive nuisance laws. In fact, the very notion that a landowner could be held responsible for injury to a trespassing child was first referred to as the "turntable doctrine," named for the large railroad turntables central to the first cases of this type.
The first turntable case involved a child named Henry Stout, who was 6 years old when his foot was crushed between a revolving turntable and the end of the iron rail on the main railroad track as he attempted to climb onto the turntable [source: Greenwood]. The name "attractive nuisance" can itself be traced to another turntable case, in which the court deemed a railroad turntable so attractive to children that its presence was equivalent to an express invitation onto the land.
In each case, the court ruled in favor of the child, reasoning that the landowners knew the turntables were dangerous and irresistibly alluring to children, yet failed to "attend, guard, fasten or lock" them in any way.
In 2006, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania awarded $24.2 million to two 17-year-old boys who suffered severe electrocution burns after climbing to the top of a parked freight car, finding that the boys were still "children of a tender age," and that both the owner of the property (Amtrak) and the owner of the freight car (Norfolk Southern) were at fault for parking a tall freight car with a clearly visible ladder under energized power lines [source: Duffy].