As custodial parents of a minor, we can be held liable for their acts.
If the act is intentional, we are liable if the child is over age 7 and under age 18. See MGL Ch. 231 sec. 85G. In fact, the courts have deemed that we are ” strictly liable “. i.e. we are liable even if we had no clue that our child would commit such an act. The only good news is that liability is limited to $5000.
The rules change if the child’s acts are ” negligent ” vs. intentional. There is no statute for negligent conduct so we obtain our guidance from common law and case law. In the case of negligent conduct by a child, parents have a duty to exercise reasonable care to prevent their child from negligently inflicting harm on others (the case law infers that intentional conduct is also part of this but I would argue that the above statute re intentional acts would trump case law).” This duty arises when the parent knows or should have known of the child’s propensity for the type of harmful conduct complained of, and has an opportunity to take reasonable corrective measures. ” Cooke v. Lopez, 57 Mass.App.Ct.703 (2003). In these cases there does not appear to be a cap on damages.
Please give me a call if you think you may have legal exposure for your child’s conduct. Doug Stoddart. 508-243-4877.