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!
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?