Getting a Recovery for Injuries Caused by an Infant


When is a child too young to be sued for negligence?

In the case of Menagh v. Breitman the court answered that a child over 4 can be held liable.

Mrs. Menagh, a womanof 87 years of age, was struck by a brother and sister racing bicycles.  Mrs. Menagh was on the sidewalk.  Mrs. Menagh sustained a fractured hip which required surgery.  Unfortunately, she died three weeks later.

       The attorney for one of the children, Juliet, claimed that she could not be liable because at the age of 4 years and 9 months she was too young to be liable for negligence.  Her attorney claimed that Juliet was non sui generis, i.e., incapable of being responsible.  Juliet’s attorney moved to dismiss the case.

The law recognizes that infants under the age of 4 are too young to responsible for negligence.  Juliet did not win a dismissal.  The court said that the jury would have to rule as to whether the child acted reasonably under the standard for a child of a similar age.

The court noted that the parent’s supervision did not exempt the child from acting reasonably.  If the parent had ordered the child to race on the sidewalk without regard to pedestrians, then the child might be exempt from responsibility.

On a side note, it appears that the household carried homeowner’s or renter’s or condo insurance.  The children and their mother would be covered.

Although the liability of the parent was not before the court on this motion, the parent could be liable for negligent supervision of her children in allowing bike racing on the sidewalk.

Aside from the discussion of  liability, where was the parent?  Why did the mother allow her children to race on the sidewalk?

If you have sustained injury as a result of negligence by a child, please feel free to call me for a free consultation at 800-581-1434 or write to letters@seitelman.com.

Mark E. Seitelman, 10/29/10, www.seitelman.com.

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