Can Parents Be Sued for the Actions of Their Children?

Parents or legal guardians of a minor child can be held financially responsible for the actions of that child under certain circumstances.

The parental responsibility for property damage or personal injury caused by a minor child is defined by state law. In Tennessee, this law only applies to custodial parents or legal guardians of a child under the age of 18 when the incident occurred; and damages are limited to $10,000 in actual expenses plus court costs (Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 37-10-101 to -103).

This liability for the parents can occur in one of two ways:

1. The act(s) of the minor child was malicious or willful and caused damage or injury to another. This is a higher standard than carelessness and refers to the intention of the child to act or cause a certain result. An example might be breaking a windshield with a baseball bat (malicious or willful), as compared to breaking a windshield while tossing a ball in a parking lot (carelessness).

2. The parents had A.) knowledge, B.) opportunity, and C.) failed to act in the prevention of the damage or injury.

A.) If a child has a history of committing the act (or similar acts) in question, then the parents knew or should have known about the potential for damage or injury.

B.) If the parents had the opportunity to stop the minor child from acting, and,

C.) failed to do so by reasonable means, then they could be financially liable for the damage or injury caused by the minor child in their custody.

Contact our attorneys today to discuss the details of your situation.

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