Friday, February 1, 2008

The Elements in Neglect of Minors Tort Cases

Can parents be held liable for the behavior of their teenager child? Yes. Although the general rule is that parents are not ‘vicariously liable’ for the torts of their children, many states impose parental liability which is intertwined by law in the torts of minors.
I just come across this article, “Tort of Negligent Supervision of Minors”, posted on May 5, 2006, which discusses the legal element of the tort of negligent supervision of minors.
In this case, the law applies to parents in the state of Kentucky. It seems interesting to note that there is a law that penalizes negligent parents who fail to take care of their children or does not show concern for their welfare. According to the statute: “"A parent is under a duty to exercise reasonable care so to control his minor child as to prevent it from intentionally harming others or from so conducting itself as to create an unreasonable risk of bodily harm to them”.
One of the most important provisions of the law states that parents can be held accountable for their children under the following conditions:
  • If the parent knows or has reason to know that he has the ability to control his child
  • If a parent knows or should know of the necessity and opportunity for exercising such control.
The article was based on a decision made by the state Supreme Court in Hugenberg v. West American Insurance Company, NO. 2004-CA-001472-MR (April 7, 2006). The case stemmed from a complaint filed against a family member, notably the teenage son, whose drinking habits have become unbearable. The complainant faulted the parents for the child’s alcohol abuse which apparently led them to sue the elders for negligent supervision of minors.
However, according to the court, the following may not be considered negligent supervision:
  • If parents are not aware of, and have no reason to be aware of any particular risk which calls for such intensive monitoring.
  • Parents have no duty to third parties to supervise or control their minor child to prevent the child from harming others unless the parents know but did not exercise control over the child
  • The mere inability to exercise control is not, in and of itself, proof that the parents violated a duty to control their child to prevent him from harming others.
I believe it is high time that more laws on parental care and guidance must be created.
Yet I am sure laws of similar nature have been specially created to promote responsible parenthood in other states. And I believe laws which protect us from all injuries arising from negligence, not only from neglecting our own children, must be implemented to serve its proper purpose.
If you have been injured or harmed due of another person’s carelessness or lack of concern, it is best to consult a lawyer who is knowledgeable in general negligence issues.