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Parental Liability for a Minor’s Torts

A parent may be liable for a minor’s torts. The parent may be found liable if the parent was negligent in their actions. The parent may be liable for an injury inflicted by the minor, if the injury was the natural and probable consequence of the parent’s negligent act. The injury should be reasonably foreseeable due to the parent’s negligence.

Failure to Exercise Control Over the Minor and Negligent Entrustment

Generally, there are two groups that the parent may fall under, either the parent failed to exercise proper control over the minor or the parent permitted the minor to have access to instrumentalities that were a source of danger due to the minor’s age or lack of experience.

The parent has a duty to exercise reasonable care to control the minor by preventing the minor from harming himself or others. The common law recoganizes that the parent knows or should have known that he or she has the ability to control the minor. Also, the parent should know the necessity of exercising such control. The parent may be found liable if he or she is found to have failed to exercise proper control over the minor.

The parent may also be liable for the actions of the minor if the parent entrusted the minor with an instrumentality that he or she should not have been trusted with. The parent may be found liable even if the parent does not give the instrumentality to the minor. In order for a plaintiff to be successful in a negligent entrustment claim, the plaintiff is not required to show that the minor had a habit of committing the type of act involved or that the parent had knowledge of such a habit.

Vicarious Liability

Although the rule on vicarious liability differs from state to state, most states do not hold the parent automatically liable for the minor’s torts simply due to parenthood. The parent is liable only based on his or her own direct negligence. States have different statutes governing this issue and provide details regarding the age of the minor, the offense committed, and the type of damages that may be recoverable if the parent is found liable for the minor’s action.

Minor’s Liability

The minor is liable for his or her own personal torts. A personal tort or a pure tort is defined as a tort not growing out of or directly connected with a contract. If a judgment is obtained against the minor, the minor may be not able to pay on the judgment due to lack of financial assets. Depending upon the minor’s history and the state involved, if the minor is named as a defendant and not represented, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem for the child, or the court may make such other order as it deems proper for the protection of the child.