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Judge Rules 4-Year-Old CAN Be Sued for Negligence!

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Better keep a close eye on your kids when they're learning how to ride a bike! Last week, a Manhattan judge ruled that a 4-year-old could actually be sued for negligence for colliding with an elderly woman!

Judge Rules 4-Year Old CAN Be Sued For Negligence!

The New York Times told a true tale of how two 4-year-olds, Juliet Breitman and Jacob Kohn, had been riding their bikes up and down a Manhattan sidewalk (with their parents looking on) when they collided with Claire Menagh, an 87-year-old woman.

Sadly, the woman broke her hip, needed surgery and died three months later of unrelated causes. But her estate saw fit to sue the 4-year-olds and their moms, citing negligence!

Kohn's parents didn't seek to dismiss the case, but Breitman's did. When the motion to dismiss was presented, however, Judge Paul Wooten of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan rejected it because of Juliet's age: She was nearly 5 when Ms. Menagh was struck, and was thus old enough to be sued, Wooten said.

What? Four is old enough to be SUED?

The young Miss Breitman's attorney argued that Juliet was too young to be liable for negligence because she wasn't "engaged in an adult activity" but was merely "riding her bicycle with training wheels under the supervision of her mother."

But the judge replied that although the attorney "correctly notes that infants under the age of 4 are conclusively presumed incapable of negligence," Breitman was older than 4 when the accident occurred -- and for infants above the age of 4, "there is no bright-line rule."

The judge wrote: "A parent's presence alone does not give a reasonable child carte blanche to engage in risky behavior, such as running across a street." He added that any "reasonably prudent child" should know that dashing out into traffic without looking is dangerous, with or without a parent there. The crucial factor is whether the parent encourages the risky behavior; if so, the child should not be held accountable."

The judge also determined that Juliet's mom was only "supervising," and that there wasn't any indication that "another child of similar age and capacity under the circumstances could not have reasonably appreciated the danger of riding a bicycle into an elderly woman."

Hmph. Should kids be allowed to run into old people? Heck, no! But should a 4-year-old be held responsible in court? What do you guys think? Is this litigious insanity? Can a 4-year-old really be considered negligent?


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154 comments so far | Post a comment now
JGleason November 2, 2010, 6:52 AM

I think this judge needs a psychologicl evaluation. Can anyone here show me the intent on behalf of the 4 year olds?

Ross November 2, 2010, 7:08 AM

This is the MOST ridiculous thing I believe I’ve heard this week.

Our country has become full of idiots and this goes to prove it. What are they going to sue the four year old girl for? Her naked, rag-headed Barbie dolls?

Does anyone think about the poor four year old that is going to court? What will that do to this child psychologically…is she going to sit in the witness stand? I mean this is just uber insane. That judge needs to be strung up with his robe and hanged outside the courthouse.

Ok, I’m finished venting. Geez, on to the next story.

Keith November 2, 2010, 7:10 AM

The kid should be sued. It’s the best way to screw the parents.

Debs November 2, 2010, 7:27 AM

No, but I think her parents can. Old people often have enough trouble finding the confidence to leave their homes, especially if they’re shaky on their legs. They should not be expected to deal with parents who can’t control their children. This lady was probably a mom too. She is irreplaceable in her children’s hearts. Hopefully, her death and this court case will encourage greater responsibility and care in the community, and will demonstrate to parents why they DO need to control their children any time they take them to a public space - restaurants, airplanes, etc. (Remember the woman who went deaf because a child screamed in her ear?)

Katherine November 2, 2010, 7:32 AM

This judge is a moron who obviously has zero insight into the mind of a child. When my kids were learning to ride their bikes, they had lots of times they crashed into the side of the house - not because they wanted to, but because they were so focused on NOT hitting the house, that is where they looked, hence that is where they steered. If the kids targetted the lady and were trying to hit her, I could see how the estate may want to sue, but it sounds like it was an accident. What are they going to sue for, anyway? The kids’ lego blocks?

really November 2, 2010, 7:43 AM

That is INSANE!! She was 87 and would have died if she fell anywhere. How nasty. Did this woman’s estate think she would live to 150?? Goldiggers! If she was that fragile, she shouldn’t have been outside at all!

Matt November 2, 2010, 7:51 AM

To Debs, you need to read what you are typing along with reading the article. It says she passed away by unrelated causes. Yes I understand the death a loved one is hard to anyone, but the children aren’t what caused her to pass away. The child cannot and should not be sued for anything. This is just ridiculous. Go ahead mess with the child’s head, put them under so much pressure before the age of 5. This poor child is screwed before she has the chance to start life.

Rob G November 2, 2010, 7:52 AM

I’m sorry but this is a sad commentary on the state of things in our country. I’m all for raising our children to be responsible but suing a four year old for accidently hitting someone while learning to ride their bike? That’s just nuts.

Also, why is the estate suing them? According to the article the woman who was hit lived for quite a months afterwards. She actually died from something completely unrelated to the accident. So why didn’t she sue? I’m betting it’s because she was a mother herself who understood that accidents can happen around children. Most likely the plaintiff is someone that was in on her will who’s suddenly realized the estate is liable for her medical bills. Sadly they’re just greedy enough to sue a child.

@Keith: The point of a lawsuit is to gain just compensation for a loss. It is not “to screw people” whom you don’t agree with.

ralsal November 2, 2010, 7:58 AM

First this so called judge should stop drinking before he goes into court. By the Debs the child was ridding on the side walk, just like may other childern do. You need to take a brake from the world that you are living in. Because I’m sure that your own children if you have any have done the same thing.

tAMMY November 2, 2010, 8:15 AM

It is crazy to sue the child but not the parents. No matter how you want to spin it the cild hit someone and caused injury!!!! Sounds like to me just another case of children running and doing whatever they want. Welcome to this generation.

Donna November 2, 2010, 8:21 AM

Go ahead and sue…hope they get the kid’s belongings only…..I wonder how much they will get for a couple of toosie roll wrappers and a snotty kleenex……
Is this not the most ridiculous thing you ever heard???
All the crime going on in this country…….and they victimize a 4 year old! Justice at work….Sheesh!

Phil November 2, 2010, 8:30 AM

jgleason intent is not a requisite element of negligence. When you can recognize the difference between intentional torts and negligence torts, then perhaps you are on your way to being able to criticize the judge.

Bert November 2, 2010, 8:33 AM

How can they prove that the children intentionally hit the lady. Is there a law in place that prevents riding bikes on the sidewalk? If not then the lady is also obligated to watch out for her surroundings. Maybe she could have eased over to the side far enough for them to be able to pass? Or did she intentionally stay in their pathway so they would hit her? Maybe the child should sue her estate for damages to the bicycle.

Phil November 2, 2010, 8:35 AM

“Our country has become full of idiots and this goes to prove it. What are they going to sue the four year old girl for? Her naked, rag-headed Barbie dolls?”

Her parent’s homeowner’s insurance. Insurance typically covers the negligent acts of dependent family members even when they occur off of the property.

“That judge needs to be strung up with his robe and hanged outside the courthouse.”

Calling for the lynching of a judge for following the letter of the law while simultaneously stating that this country is full of idiots…Oh sweet irony.


Bobbi November 2, 2010, 8:42 AM

We sue anyone now even 4 year old’s. This judge just gives more fuel to the lawsuit happy American way. This is our sad reality of life today.
Sue, Sue, Sue, that’s what we do!!

insurancegirl November 2, 2010, 8:43 AM

Most posters here clearly don’t understand their homeowners insurance very well. You sue the child as well as the parents in order to link the parent (who was not involved in the collision) to the incident and firmly establish that the household’s liability insurance should apply. No, you don’t get a snotty tissue when you sue a 4-year-old; you get the $300,000 liability insurance from the parents’ homeowners insurance. Also, any damages designated as compensation for the medical bills would be handed over to reimburse the deceased’s health insurer, who may be a background instigator in the suit. It’s all about the lawyers and the insurance companies, folks.

Chris November 2, 2010, 8:47 AM

This is ridiculous, Negligent from a 4 year old, Learning to ride her bike? What this is a classic example of COMMON Scene flying the coop,Accidents happen some times without intent or neglect, unfortunately society has become full of morons looking for the easy buck.I feel horrible for the Lady walking,but really a 4year old negligent??

Phil November 2, 2010, 8:48 AM

@Tammy: They did sue the parents as well. Unfortunately to prevail against the parents for negligent supervision the plaintiffs would have to establish knowledge on the part of the parents that the child has the propensity (not the mere chance) to run into people with her bike. The stronger case is unfortunately against the child, but that is still an uphill battle. They will need to convince the jury that a reasonable child of similar age, capacity, and education would have acted differently. In any event the award will come from the same place if the plaintiffs prevail; homeowner’s insurance.

Phil November 2, 2010, 8:52 AM

@Bobby;

You are ignoring nearly 100 years of similar decisions to reach the conclusion that this a sad reality of life today. The sad reality is that people do not understand the body of law they see fit to comment on.

Tim November 2, 2010, 9:00 AM

Judge should be removed. Clearly he does not have adequate judgment for the job he now holds. We should change the law and if you sue and lose you pay the defendant the amount you sued for if the lawsuit is considered frivolous by the court (by a jury not a single judge)


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