Sometimes children are responsible for injuries and property damage. Although the injured party can seek compensation available under Ohio law, suing a minor is different from suing an adult.
Recently, the Oregon Court of Appeals made news when they ruled that a mother was allowed to sue her minor son after he crashed and totaled the family Jeep Cherokee and caused the mother to suffer a broken arm. This may seem a bit odd at a glance, but in this particular case, the lawsuit was the only way the mother could collect damages from her insurance company. Of course, in most cases, those seeking compensation from injuries caused by children are suing minors who are not part of their family.
Below, we’ll go over the standard of care for minors in Ohio, who you can sue if you’re injured by a child, parental responsibility laws, and how to get help from a qualified Ohio personal injury attorney.
Standard of Care for Minors in Ohio
A child is not held to the same standard of care as an adult in Ohio, but rather to a standard of how a reasonable child of the same age and experience and would behave. Ohio has granted additional protections to minors.
If a child is under 7 years old, they cannot ever be held responsible for negligence, Holbrock v. Hamilton Distributing Co., 11 Ohio St. 2d 185, 228 N.E.2d 628 (1967). For children between age 7 and 14, there is a rebuttable presumption that they are incapable of negligence, Kuhns v. Brugger, 390 Pa. 331, 135 A.2d 395 (1957); V. SCHWARTZ, COMPARATIVE NEGLIGENCE § 14.1 (1974). 114.
Who to Sue if You Are Injured by a Child
Although you can sue minors in Ohio in many cases, they cannot represent themselves in court, so if the lawsuit doesn’t include the parents and the parents don’t provide a lawyer, a court will appoint a guardian ad litem attorney to represent them.
If you are injured by a child, and they are of an age and competency to be held legally responsible, that would be of small comfort if you couldn’t collect money damages. Usually, children don’t have money or assets. It therefore only makes sense to name a child as a defendant in limited situations where it’s the sole way to squeeze money out of an insurance company, as in the Oregon case previously mentioned.
In general, a plaintiff should include the parents and any other culpable third-party defendants in a lawsuit that seeks compensation for injuries caused by a child.
Ohio’s Parental Responsibility Laws
Under traditional common law principles, parents generally were not responsible for third parties being injured by their kids, so the injured parties had to sue the child directly. The common law has changed quite a bit, but many states, including Ohio, have also passed statutes enabling injured parties in specific types of situations to sue the parents of children who commit torts.
Parental Liability for Property Damage or Theft in Ohio
Under Ohio Revised Code section 3109.09, a parent or legal guardian can be liable for up to $10,000 in actual damages plus court costs if the child willfully caused property damage or stole. There is a separate statute that covers vandalism and some other intentional acts.
Parental Liability for Personal Injury in Ohio
Under Ohio Revised Code section 3109.10, if a child willfully injures another, parents may be held liable for up to $10,000 plus court costs.
Parental Liability for Vandalism, Desecration, or Ethnic Intimidation
Under Ohio Revised Code section 2307.70, a parent can be held responsible for up to $15,000 plus court costs if their child commits an act of vandalism, desecration, or ethnic intimidation. Under the statute, a parent and the parent’s minor child are jointly and severally liable. The person who has suffered the injury may seek compensation from both the parent and the child.
Parental Liability for a Minor’s Driving in Ohio
Under Ohio Revised Code section 4507.07, the adult who signed the application for the minor’s driver’s permit is financially responsible for any damages the child causes while driving. Both the child and the adult are jointly and severally liable.
Ohio Parents May Have Responsibilities for Their Children’s Offenses Even Where Statutes Don’t Apply
Just because a statute does not specifically address parental responsibility for a child in a particular situation does not mean the parents cannot be sued. Case precedent as well as statutes govern parental responsibility for not adequately supervising their minor children and the resulting injuries and damages they cause.
Third Parties May Sometimes Be Held Liable for Injuries Caused by Children
In some instances, third parties may be held liable for the actions of children. For example, a number of cases have held school districts liable in instances of bullying. In 1999, in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, 526 U.S. 629 (1999), the Supreme Court determined that a school board receiving federal funds could be sued if they act with “deliberate indifference” to known acts of harassment. An example in Ohio of such a case is one where a former student won a $300,000 settlement in 2015 against the Chesapeake Local School District in a bullying case.
This does not mean that parents and children are off the hook. Consider a case in the Common Pleas Court of Lake County, Ohio, where it was claimed that a child maliciously assaulted another causing a concussion and other injuries. The injured child’s father sued the child accused of being a bully, his parents, and the school district.
Seek Help from an Ohio Attorney When You Are Injured by a Child
If you suffer personal injury or property damage due to the actions of a child, whether intentional or accidental, the steps you must take to be compensated for your loss can be complicated. To protect your interests, you may want to seek help as soon as you can from an experienced Ohio personal injury lawyer. Contact us today for a free consultation.
Prior to forming Dyer, Garofalo, Mann & Schultz, Doug worked as a bodily injury claims adjuster for a large insurance company. This unique experience has been a tremendous asset to Doug in his fight to achieve maximum cash settlements for his clients in minimum time. Since departing from the insurance company, Doug has dedicated his entire legal career to helping injured clients when they need it the most.