An Associated Press report republished by the Salem Statesman-Journal this month is distressing. According to the news agency, a 3-year-old girl was critically injured in Oregon City when the child “fell into a crawl space.”
This was not, however, an at-home accident. The crawl space was in a house that the girl’s mother was viewing along with a real estate agent. In fact, there is some evidence that the accident could have been worse. “Clackamas County fire officials say the girl was playing with her brother beneath stairs near the hatch to the crawl space” at the time of the accident, according to the news agency.
While controlling one’s children is ultimately a parent’s responsibility, the details of this Oregon child injury accident raise a number of unsettling questions related to Oregon premises liability. A homeowner who places a house on the market for sale has a responsibility to ensure that it is safe – or that potential buyers are warned well in advance that they are visiting an unsafe property. Responsibility for conveying this information to buyers and other potential visitors, in turn, passes to a real estate agent when that agent brings someone onto a property to view it. Parents viewing a potential family home should not be confronted with a safety problem of this seriousness when they are merely visiting the property for a look.
All of us have a responsibility to look out for the safety of children, and to maintain a reasonably safe environment for any children who may be expected to be in the area. At the very least, any visit to a property with a potentially serious crawlspace issue, like the one so tragically illustrated here, should have been preceded by a warning to that effect directed at anyone who might come to view the property.
My practice as a Portland premises liability attorney turns up issues like this far too often. Similarly, in my work helping families that have been the victims of Oregon child injuries I am all too often confronted with unnecessary tragedies that came about because of someone else’s negligence. Our courts are here to help right these wrongs, and to help families obtain justice in the wake of preventable accidents, but it would be far better for everyone if we all simply took more care, especially whenever kids are (or may be) around.
AP via Salem Statesman-Journal: Oregon City child injured in fall into crawl space