Yesterday, we learned that a 4-year-old could be sued for negligence, after a Judge ruled that the estate of Claire Menagh could sue one of the two children who hit her while they were racing their bikes (with training wheels) in April 2009. Menagh suffered a broken hip, which was "caused by the negligence, carelessness, recklessness and gross negligence of [children Juliet and Jacob]," and died a couple months later of natural causes. The case has caused a lot of discussion among parents about the responsiblity and expectations of children.
The Times spoke with residents in the East side neighborhood where the accident occured, and were met with many who "shook their heads at the absurdity of suing someone so young, even as they acknowledged that the sidewalk was...'a gray zone.'" The writer of the piece cites her own experience with her child to argue that children shouldn't be sued in these cases:
Even as we expect our children to be ever more precocious—bilingual before kindergarten; too old at 4 for picture books, thank you; capable of showing us around our iPhones—somehow we never expect them to be ever more adult; certainly not so adult as to be potentially liable for negligence. One of my own 4-year-old twin sons not only believes Batman lives and breathes, but assumes he will someday grow up to be Batman. I have little fantasy that he is “reasonably” anything in particular when it comes to his judgment.
But as the lawyer for Menagh's estate reminded yesterday, insurance companies would be responsible for any damages awarded. "It's not coming out of the kids' pockets or their mothers' pockets," said lawyer David Kownacki.