A 4 year old girl accused of running into an elderly woman on her bicycle in New York City can be sued for negligence, a New York Judge has ruled.
Judge Paul Wooten of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan has allowed a law suit to be continued against the 4 year old child and her parents.
The four year olds, a girl and a boy, were racing their bikes under their mother’s supervision on a Manhattan footpath in April 2009 when they collided and struck an 80 year old woman who suffered a fractured hip that required surgery.
The woman died 3 months later of unrelated causes. The woman’s estate then sued the children and their mother, claiming that they had acted negligently.
The Defence argued that the girl was too young to be capable of negligence but the Judge rejected this argument. He stated “for infants above the age of 4, there is no bright line rule” adding that the girl had been three months short of turning five.
The Judge disagreed with the Defence argument that the child should not be held responsible because her mother was present, saying “a parents presence alone does not give a reasonable child cart blanche to engage in risky behaviour such as running across a street, any reasonably prudent child should know that running off is dangerous. Unless the parent encourages the risky behaviour, the child should be held accountable.”
Commenting on the landmark US judgment Naas based Personal Injury Solicitor Liam Moloney stated “Irish Courts do not have to follow US law but often Judges will look at decisions in the USA for guidance. In many cases in Ireland where parents take cases on behalf of their children for compensation for injuries sustained in accidents Insurance Companies routinely seek to place liability on the parents themselves by claiming that the parents didn’t adequately supervise their children and therefore contributed to the accident occurring. Courts in assessing liability will usually examine in each case a childs age, intelligence and experience. The traditional view here has been that children of 4 or younger would not have the necessary capacity to be held legally responsible for their actions.
Insurance Companies may now argue that there is legal authority to place legal responsibility on a child of that age who has either contributed to or caused an accident.”