A New York judge has ruled that a four year old girl might have been too young for grade school, but the girl was old enough to be sued over a bicycle accident that injured a bystander.
The judge refused to dismiss negligence claims against the girl and her mother and who are being sued by the estate of a woman who alleges she was seriously injured when hit by the girl’s bicycle while she was racing down a sidewalk. The woman later died.
The court ruled that although the girl was three months shy of five years of age, there was no evidence a child of her age couldn’t appreciate “the danger of riding a bicycle into an elderly woman.”
Of course, a young girl would probably not have sufficient assets to pay off any judgment which might ultimately be rendered against her, but her parents might. Her parents may also have insurance which provides liability coverage to the victim’s estate for the parents’ negligence. This raises the legal issue of when can a parent be held legally responsible for the negligence of their young child.
In Florida, the long-standing rule is that “a parent is not liable for the tort of his minor child because of the mere fact of paternity.” Seabrook v. Taylor, 199 So.2d 315 (Fla. 4th DCA 1967) One of the recognized exceptions to this rule is where the parent entrusts the “child with an instrumentality which, because of the lack of age, judgment, or experience of the child, may become a source of danger to others.” Gissen v. Goodwill, 80 So.2d 701 (Fla.1955).
Here, the judgment of the girl’s parents in allowing her to race her bicycle on a city street can certainly be called into question. Even if the girl, without her parents’ permission, took it upon herself to race her bicycle down the sidewalk, her parents had the duty to supervise her behavior to make sure that it was not a danger to others.
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