Preschoolers Sued for Negligence
November 2, 2010
by Kate Goodin
According to The New York Times, a judge ruled that it is legal to bring a lawsuit against a 4-year-old girl, Juliet Breitman (and her 5-year-old friend, Jacob Kohn) and their parents for negligence after they hit an 87-year-old woman while riding their bikes.
Never did I think I'd type "4-year-old" and "lawsuit" in the same sentence.
In April 2009, the children were racing their bikes with training wheels on a Manhattan sidewalk (with their mothers supervising them) and struck the woman, who suffered a hip fracture that needed surgery. She died three months later, but it is reported that it was from causes unrelated to her injury. Now, the woman's family is suing the children for acting negligently in the accident.
Breitman's lawyer argues she's too young to be liable for negligence, and that courts have ruled children under four are incapable of negligence.
The judge said that Breitman was four at the time (in fact, close to turning five), which is why she can be sued. And even though the judge said "there is no bright line rule" on capability of negligence for children over 4, he also said "any reasonably prudent child" would have appreciated "the danger of riding a bicycle into an elderly woman."
I wasn't at the scene of the accident, but I seriously doubt they were intent on running her over. And while they've probably heard the usual "Slow down!" or "Don't ride too fast" warnings from their parents, they're four and five! It takes a while for those lessons to sink in for kids.
I am sorry for the family's loss, but they're suing these kids for being....well, kids. It seems like it was probably just a very unfortunate accident, or perhaps a bad call on the part of the parents for letting them ride on a sidewalk.
What's your take on the kids getting sued?