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Dangerous Activities or Conditions

This page provides examples of how local governments in Washington State regulate potentially dangerous activities or conditions, including attractive nuisances and model airplanes.

Aircraft and Other Airborne Devices

Generally, the landing of pleasure aircraft such as hot air balloons, ultralights, and similar devices are regulated through zoning. The sample provisions cited in this section relate to prohibitions on landing in public areas.

Unauthorized Landings

Model Airplanes, Remote Controlled Airplanes

To keep model airplanes from becoming nuisances, many local governments have designated areas in parks for their use and provide regulations governing where and how they may be flown. In addition to sample local government regulations, see also regulations relating to remote controlled airplane use in state parks in WAC-352-130(4).

Attractive Nuisances

Most county and city codes include a provision pertaining to attractive nuisances in their list of designated nuisances to protect children from injury or death by removing conditions that attract them. The most frequently cited is abandoned refrigerators. Provisions relating to allowing an abandoned refrigerator to remain in any place accessible to children without having the door removed or the latch mechanism removed are codified in chapter 9.03 RCW. Others include vacant property and building sites not properly secured, and the accumulation of various junk which might be attractive to children for areas of play.

The first Washington case in which the attractive nuisance doctrine was involved was in 1890, Ilwaco Ry. & Nav. Co. v. Hedrick, 1 Wash. 446 (1890). An action was taken against a railway company for the death of a child, caused by negligence of the company in leaving a turn-table unfastened. It was shown that the agent knew children were attracted to the machine and were in the habit of playing on it and that the method of securing it had in the past proved insufficient.

The Washington Supreme Court slowly evolved the limits of the attractive nuisance doctrine and in a 1940 case, Schock v. Ringling Bros., 5 Wn 2d 599 (1940), the court listed five elements that must be present to make the "attractive nuisance" doctrine applicable to a given case:

  1. The instrumentality or condition must be dangerous in itself, that is, it must be an agency which is likely to, or probably will, result in injury to those attracted by, and coming in contact with, it;
  2. It must be attractive and alluring, or enticing, to young children;
  3. The children must have been incapable, by reason of their youth, of comprehending the danger involved;
  4. The instrumentality or condition must have been left unguarded and exposed at a place where children of tender years are accustomed to resort, or where it is reasonably to be expected that they will resort, for play or amusement, or for the gratification of youthful curiosity; and
  5. It must have been reasonably practicable and feasible either to prevent access to the instrumentality of condition, or else to render it innocuous, without obstructing any reasonable purpose or use for which it was intended.

The doctrine of attractive nuisance has not changed radically over the years. Two more recent cases are: Ochampaugh v. Seattle, 91 Wn.2d 514 (1979), and Schneider v. Seattle, 24 Wn. App. 251 (1979).

Code Provisions

Unguarded Excavations, Wells, Pits, Mine Shafts

Last Modified: November 23, 2020