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Friday, November 19, 2010

Capable of Negligence

At the age of four:

The suit that Justice Wooten allowed to proceed claims that in April 2009, Juliet Breitman, 4, and Jacob Kohn, 5, were racing their bicycles, under the supervision of their mothers, Dana Breitman and Rachel Kohn, on the sidewalk of a building on East 52nd Street. At some point in the race, they struck an 87-year-old woman named Claire Menagh, who was walking in front of the building and, according to the complaint, was “seriously and severely injured,” suffering a hip fracture that required surgery. She died three months later of unrelated causes.

Her estate sued the children and their mothers, claiming they had acted negligently during the accident.

Lawyered madness. And no, this is not a backdoor way of getting at the mother:

Mr. Tyrie had also argued that Juliet should not be held liable because her mother was present; Justice Wooten disagreed.

“A parent’s presence alone does not give a reasonable child carte blanche to engage in risky behavior such as running across a street,” the judge wrote. 

I've never met a "reasonable child." Perhaps the judge's children are "reasonable," even well before the age of reason.

Posted by Richard Anderson on November 19, 2010 | Permalink


"Reasonable" is a term of art and does not mean to say that the child was behaving rationally or considering consequences the way an adult would. The "reasonable person" is a construction of law. It represents the standard of behavior expected from the average person in any given situation. In this case, the "reasonable child" would be measured against the standards of behavior expected of children, not an adult.

Posted by: A point of law | 2010-11-19 1:14:27 PM

More to the point, Publius, have you HAD any children, reasonable or otherwise? I have, so I know how hard it can be control them given the limited techniques our hippyish laws are willing to allow. For what it's worth, the age of eight is generally regarded as the age of reason.

That said, I do not see how a minor, who cannot even enter into a binding contract, can be legally sued. More than likely it's a lawyer's cynical attempt to extract double damages; four defendants instead of two, four awards instead of two (although probably not double overall). Of course, the mothers will end up paying the full amount in any case; how do you garnishee a four-year-old's wages?

I agree it's ridiculous, but I've long since stopped expecting anything resembling sense from this generation of jurists. Far too many of them act like they never stopped smoking pot after they got out of law school. By the way, isn't it illegal to ride a bike on the sidewalk in the first place? And did the old lady look both ways before crossing the sidewalk?

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-11-19 4:30:11 PM

Typical stupid liberal nonsense. There are no "reasonable" children, just like there are no reasonable dogs or cats. This judge is a typical liberal hack that must be put down in the name of Liberty.

Posted by: AB Patriot | 2010-11-19 8:45:41 PM

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