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Appellate Court Discuss Age at Which Children Can Be Liable for Their Own Negligent Actions

Earlier this month, an appellate court in Utah issued an opinion in a case that presented an interesting issue regarding when a minor can be held individually liable for their own negligent actions. Ultimately, the court determined that no minor under the age of five can be held liable for their actions, regardless of the level of negligence or recklessness involved. The case, importantly, did not comment on the potential liability of the parents of the minor.

baby-1093759_960_720Neilsen v. Bell:  The Facts of the Case

The Bells had a four-year-old son. When they were away for the evening, they arranged for Neilsen to stay with their son as a babysitter. Unfortunately, while the Bells were away, their son threw a toy at Neilsen’s face, hitting her in the eye. Neilsen, having previously had surgery on her cornea, ended up losing the sight in that eye as a result of the toy striking her.

Neilsen filed a personal injury lawsuit against the Bells, as well as against the young boy in his individual capacity. The lawsuit against the Bells proceeded under the legal theory of negligent entrustment, arguing that they were negligent in leaving their son with Neilsen. However, that claim was dismissed by the trial court and was not appealed by the plaintiff.

The second claim filed by Neilsen, however, was against the young boy in his individual capacity. The Bells, defending the case for their young son, argued that as a four-year-old he could not legally be held liable for his actions. The plaintiff argued the opposite and asked the court to allow the case to proceed to a trial and to let the jury decide.

The trial court hearing the case determined that it may be possible that a jury would find that the young boy was negligent in his actions and, if so, that he could legally be held responsible. The Bells then filed an appeal, asking a higher court to revisit the issue.

On appeal, the court reversed the lower court’s decision and determined that no child under the age of five can be held liable for their own actions. This was a compromise, in a way, since the defendants were asking that no child under seven be held liable. However, the result for the plaintiff is the same, in that she will not be able to recover for her injuries because the defendant was found to be incapable of acting negligently under the law.

Have You Been Injured by a Minor?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured due to a minor’s negligence, you may still be entitled to monetary compensation. The case discussed above presented an unusual situation in which the child was very young, and the parents were not at all involved in the child’s supervision. Most cases involving a negligent minor do not present such hurdles. In fact, Florida law expressly allows for cases to proceed against minors in certain situations. To learn more, call the skilled personal injury attorneys at Cohn & Smith, PA at 954-431-8100 today to set up a free consultation.

Related Blog Posts:

Florida Plaintiff’s Bad-Faith Claim against Insurance Company Upheld on Appeal, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, March 16, 2016.

Plaintiff’s Road-Rage Case Successful on Appeal, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, April 4, 2016.

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