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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
Anonymous November 2, 2010, 1:21 PM

Judge Paul Wooten needs to be taken off the bench and run over by a tricycle- by accident of course. What was he thinking? Four years old??? Puleeze. They can’t even pull their pants up by themselves after going to the bathroom. Of course they are going to crash. They are learning how to ride. Maybe kids now need licence plates on their bikes that read student drivers like those driving schools have just in case we don’t realize that they are only learning. Apparently the training wheels were not a good enough clue.

tracey8051 November 2, 2010, 4:12 PM

Well, they aren’t really suing the child, they are suing the parents, unless we’re talking about the only 4 year old on the planet with actual assets. I do think it is a ridiculous lawsuit, though, because no matter how hard you try to avoid them, accidents happen, especially when dealing with little kids. It’s not like the kids looked at each other and said “look, there’s an old lady…let’s go run her down!”

What a horrible lesson for such young kids to learn! Whoever is in charge of that woman’s estate is obviously a complete jerk!!!!

Laurie November 2, 2010, 5:44 PM

Once a geriatric patient experiences a hip fracture the likelihood of death in the next year greatly increases. This woman’s quality of life was severely impacted by the carelessness of this child and the irresponsibility of the parent in not teaching the child to act responsibly.A 4 year old, almost five is able to recognize that running a bike into another person likely will cause an injury.The parents of this child should be sued. They are responsible for their child’s irresponsibility.

Adam November 2, 2010, 5:57 PM

Wow.. I was just having a conversation a few weeks ago with a friend explaining how since “marriage” and other traditional well established institutions have been redefined the next thing we will see is the redefinition of “adult”. When 9 and 10 year olds can be tried as adults for violent crimes, and 4 year olds can be sued for “negligence” as an adult. The next thing you will see is a pedophile using the argument that the 10 year old they were molesting was an “adult”, after that NAMBLA will use these cases as validation that these precedents will allow their abominable behavior.

Before you say “never”.. remember that 30 years ago if you told someone that gay marriage would be a “norm” you would have laughed out of the room.

KS November 2, 2010, 6:08 PM

I hope the parents appeal this one all the way to the supreme court if necessary. The law specifically states any child can not be sued until the age of five. Not oh well she was almost five so that’s good enough. It’s not good enough.

If they wanted the medical bills to be paid they should have filed a civil law suit against the people responsible for the behavior of the child. That would be the parents.

I understand that living in a city means children have limited spaces to simply be children but that’s what their parents signed up for. They should have taken those children to a park where they were free to ride their bikes at will.

Seniors have a reasonable expectation of being able to walk on a side walk free of bicycle traffic. They should no more be stuck in the house than children.

Phil November 2, 2010, 6:14 PM

@Adam. Wow perhaps you should have conversation with a rational adult who can explain to you that children have been held liable for negligence going back more than 100 years and wouldn’t you know, no pedophile has brought up the defense that since they are old enough to be sued they are old enough to be banged.

By the way gay marriage still is not the “norm” unless of course you have some statistics showing that the majority of married couples are homosexuals. However I was glad to see you take a completely unrelated topic to try to tie pedophilia to homosexuality. Just of curiosity how many hours out of the day do you spend fantasizing about men?

Anonymous November 2, 2010, 6:16 PM

@Adam. Wow perhaps you should have conversation with a rational adult who can explain to you that children have been held liable for negligence going back more than 100 years and wouldn’t you know, no pedophile has brought up the defense that since they are old enough to be sued they are old enough to be banged.

By the way gay marriage still is not the “norm” unless of course you have some statistics showing that the majority of married couples are homosexuals. However I was glad to see you take a completely unrelated topic to try to tie pedophilia to homosexuality. Just of curiosity how many hours out of the day do you spend fantasizing about men?

Phil November 2, 2010, 6:20 PM

@KS

Please cite the specific law that says “any child can not be sued until the age of five.”

“If they wanted the medical bills to be paid they should have filed a civil law suit against the people responsible for the behavior of the child. That would be the parents.”

Have you even read the complaint? They did sue the parents as well, but I’m going to hazard a guess that you have never studied tort law. The stronger case is against the child.

KS November 2, 2010, 6:31 PM

Wow phil I’m amazed you had time to do all that research after you figured out how to as you say “bang children”. Your about as disgusting as it gets but that’s ok. Go for it and keep up the good work buddy. I’m sure you just love trolling the mommy boards don’t you?

CHILDREN are not liable for the actions their parents have deemed appropriate. Especially considering those parents were monitoring their child at the time of the incident.

So now that we have more information. Please explain to me why these people feel the need to bring litigation against not only the parents but their child too. Explain that one oh wise one. That is of course if you have enough time. I’m sure Nambla takes up a great deal of it.

Phil November 2, 2010, 6:46 PM

@KS

I can’t help but notice that you still aren’t citing that law. Could it be that the law doesn’t exist? I’ll give you a hint Camardo v. New York S. Rys., 247 N.Y. 111 (N.Y. 1928).

“CHILDREN are not liable for the actions their parents have deemed appropriate.”

Another statement of imaginary law.


Phil November 2, 2010, 6:55 PM

@ KS;
As a general principle parents are not liable for their child’s torts. There is an exception in NY law for intentional torts and where the parent has prior knowledge of the child’s dangerous propensity.

So unless the parent has knowledge of the child’s propensity to run people over with her bike, then the parents are not liable.

No propensity is required to find the child was negligent. If they can convince the jury the child was negligent most homeowners policies cover torts of minors.

Phil November 2, 2010, 7:17 PM

@KS

I anxiously await your brilliant insights into to tort law, and oh so clever cutting insults about NAMBLA.

KS November 2, 2010, 7:42 PM

OH no dear sir I am anxiously awaiting your explanation on how it is ever ethical to sue a 5 year old child after you have already sued her parents. Seeing how the parents are the ones who are going to be financially responsible for both law suits. Please explain that one.

You can argue torte law all day with me. I am no lawyer. What I do posses dear sir is a tad bit of common sense. Any person who comes on a networking site throwing around language about banging children and hurling insults at people he isn’t speaking to face to face has already lost the debate.

Suing children is wrong. Children are not the responsible party, the parents are. Just because there is precedence and case law does not make it ethical or morally right. Then again I would bet you don’t have children either.

Phil November 2, 2010, 7:53 PM

@KS

“OH no dear sir I am anxiously awaiting your explanation on how it is ever ethical to sue a 5 year old child after you have already sued her parents.

They haven’t already sued the parents, there are three causes of action in the same lawsuit. As I have already explained the claim against the parents is a weak one. The parents aren’t the ones that are paying any recovery will be through insurance. I’d like your explanation on how it is ethical to force an 87 year old woman to pay for medical bills stemming from the carelessness of another.

Phil November 2, 2010, 7:58 PM

@KS

“I am no lawyer.”

Given your limited grasp of the law that goes without saying

“What I do posses dear sir is a tad bit of common sense.”

I’ve yet to see that demonstrated

Phil November 2, 2010, 8:00 PM

“Any person who comes on a networking site throwing around language about banging children […]”

I’m sorry did I bring up the subject of pedophilia or did I point out the folly of trying to somehow trying to tie this suit to pedophilia?

Phil November 2, 2010, 8:03 PM

“Suing children is wrong. Children are not the responsible party, the parents are. Just because there is precedence and case law does not make it ethical or morally right.”

Just because you say it is ethically or morally wrong does not make it so. I find it more morally reprehensible to attack the victim for attempt to seek compensation for injuries sustained through no fault of their own.

props November 2, 2010, 9:03 PM

Only in America with all these satan loving judges calling the shots. We are a lawless society with no laws. Judges make up the law as they go. This judge is obviously the biggest AH on the planet at least one of them. May the judge rot in hell. Sue a four old or even the parent for this tragic accident. America at it’s best.

KS November 2, 2010, 10:00 PM

Phil, thank you again for proving my point. You have provided nothing but insults towards me and other posters. Then claim I have no common sense. So I am the fool indeed. I think not.

Again if your grasp of this specific case is so strong why resort to such low brow attacks on posters instead of simply giving us the facts?


Is it because you don’t grasp the facts of this specific case and simply like to argue with those you deem less educated than yourself? Remember there philly boy just because one is less educated in one specific area does not make them less intelligent and unable to tell right from wrong.

Frivolous litigation against a 5 year old child should be thrown out ESPECIALLY when there is an open civil case against the parents for the same incident. It is unethical and your refusal to admit that speaks to your moral character not my intelligence.

And just to touch on another point. Not one person here has attacked the victim of this accident. Considering she is no longer alive to bring forth these lawsuits it would be difficult to do. Her family however should be ashamed of themselves because like another person pointed out, if she wasn’t of the mindset to sue this family for medical expenses and damages why should they after her death which resulted from an unrelated cause.

Phil November 2, 2010, 10:30 PM

KS, I grasp the facts of the case just fine, you seem to have a hard time understanding tha facts must be applied to existing law.There is nothing to suggesting the case is frivolous and you don’t throw out a cause of action because there is another. That is limiting your chance of recovery.

Your failure to understand that it is unethical to deny a victim a chance of recovery speaks volumes about your character.

Not one person attacked the victim?
“this country has become full of idiots”
“She was 87 she would die if she fell anywhere”
“We are now trying to pick on children”

Had you read the complaint you’d realize that she did in fact initiate the suit. The estate was substituted as a party after her death. So by calling her claim frivolous you are attacking her.


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