4 years olds can be sued? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 39 Old 10-29-2010, 05:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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OK this I don't quite get and I might be missing some of the story, but really?

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/29/ny...o_interstitial

Basically an almost 5 year old ran into an old women while riding her bike with training wheels. A judge just ruled she can be sued for neglect.

What do you all think about this. I understand the women was hurt, but suing for negligence also points to no intent on the child's part.

Is your almost 5 year old capable of understanding the danger of riding a bike fast on a sidewalk? (it was in the city)

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#2 of 39 Old 10-29-2010, 06:31 PM
 
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I find it as looney as you did. At first I thought, OK, it says sue a 4yo, but they are really wanting damages paid by the child's parents. But no, as I read it, the judge says a just turned 4yo could not be purposely negligent, but because she was 3 months shy of being 5yo, so she should have known not to bike so fast and into the woman. But so much is NOT explained. Did she and the other 4 yo boy see the woman, and intentionally run her down? Or were they distracted and not see her? Did the woman just appear, or was she there all along? Did the woman or the children just assume the other would move out of the way?

OK, my 3 yo (nearly 4) bikes blazingly fast down the sidewalk, and she will move to avoid people, dogs, strollers... but I could also see a situation where she might get so distracted talking with me or a friend, or seeing something exciting, that she accidentally crashes into someone. Or if she wasn't sure whether she should move over or the other person should. Would also depend on if she could see the person walking down the street, or if they had just appeared and headed across the sidewalk... none of that is explained in the original article.
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#3 of 39 Old 10-29-2010, 06:56 PM
 
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that makes no sense at all... what on earth would you get out of suing a 4 year old... I get that the parents would pay damages.... so why not just sue the mom for not providing close enough supervision? Or maybe the mom was supervising closely and warning the little girl that she was about to run into the older lady. idk... it's kind of general... but I can imagine a number of situations where a little kid would be distracted enough to run into something or someone... or maybe (since she did have training wheels on her bike) she just starting going faster than she was really able to control?

I mean I'm sure that it's not like she ran into the lady on purpose. The whole thing just seems... a little.... extreme
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#4 of 39 Old 10-29-2010, 06:57 PM
 
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I am suspecting that this is a case of the parents not keeping proper control of their own children. I think that the hit to the lady must have been pretty bad for those kind of injuries. It is really the parents being sued and I agree that the parents should be sued. I have seen way way too many parents who find it acceptable to let their children be destructive and out of control. Parents SHOULD be held accountable for their children's behaviors.
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#5 of 39 Old 10-29-2010, 07:00 PM
 
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Also, I want to add, I was at the store with my mother who walks with a cane. She got knocked over by some horrid kids who were running fast up and down the aisles. We asked them to stop, please watch out, but they would not stop. No parents were in sight. And then they knocked my mom over. They really creamed her. I mean, they were running at full speed and their parents did not care. My mom ended up in the hospital for months. I think it would have been great if she had sued the parents of those kids. Those kids and the parents of those kids never apologized, not once.
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#6 of 39 Old 10-29-2010, 07:05 PM
 
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Well the woman DIED. Apparently, as the law is written, the parent's can't be sued....so the only option left is to sue the parents (if one thinks they MUST sue). This law needs to be changed!!! The parent was allowing the illegal behavior (bike riding on sidewalk) so the parent should be able to be sued.

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#7 of 39 Old 10-29-2010, 07:07 PM
 
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Well the woman DIED. Apparently, as the law is written, the parent's can't be sued....so the only option left is to sue the parents (if one thinks they MUST sue). This law needs to be changed!!! The parent was allowing the illegal behavior (bike riding on sidewalk) so the parent should be able to be sued.
The article specifically says she did NOT die because of this, but of unrelated causes.
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#8 of 39 Old 10-29-2010, 07:08 PM
 
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I'm sure there is more to this case than mentioned. I think the point is that children (or adults for that matter) should not be riding their bicycles on busy street sidewalks. Two children on a sidewalk racing is a disaster waiting to happen and in fact a disaster DID happen. It's a very serious matter, and I would be mad enough to sue if it was my 80 grandmother who was ran over. I think this is a punishment for the parents, not the children. The children won't be hassled in court, they won't be paying any damages.

This accident shouldn't have happened and should've been prevented by the mothers.
And I do have an almost 5 year old girl and she does ride a bike with training wheels on our very slow suburban sidewalks. If there is so much a fellow pedestrian IN SIGHT, I make her slow down to a crawl or stop altogether. A children on a small bike might be a cute and harmless sight, but I'm sure this poor lady did not feel that way as she was slammed into.

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#9 of 39 Old 10-29-2010, 07:46 PM
 
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In many states the parents cannot be held liable for the actions of their children and so the child must be sued. (can you tell that I enjoy watching The People's Court on occasion? I would guess that most people who do sue hope that the parent's pay the judgement if their child is found guilty but a verdict against a minor remains valid until the child turns 18.
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#10 of 39 Old 10-29-2010, 07:49 PM
 
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The only logic I can see is that this will go into their record and if there becomes a pattern of negligence and recklessness on their part this will be another piece of the puzzle. And since they cannot sue the parents (which they should) this is the only way to send a serious message to them and record their negligence.

And I think a 5 year old is old enough to know you don't tide your bike out of control on a side walk. If a child is not old enough to know that they are not old enough to be riding a bike.

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#11 of 39 Old 10-29-2010, 08:37 PM
 
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The idea of suing a 4 year old is absurd. What a ridiculous country I live in, for such a thing to be possible. What a poor justice system.
The article didn't have enough information for me to otherwise determine the guilt or innocence of anyone present.
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#12 of 39 Old 10-29-2010, 08:58 PM
 
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What I get out of it is that if she were under 4 she would have lacked the self-control in the eyes of the law, BUT since she was almost 5 she should know to not ride too fast and run into an elderly lady. Hmmmmm...so if you are 4 you lack the judgment, but if you are a couple months shy of 5 by golly you better have some self control.

Gimme a friggin break
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#13 of 39 Old 10-29-2010, 09:50 PM
 
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The parent was allowing the illegal behavior (bike riding on sidewalk) so the parent should be able to be sued.
It is legal for children under 12 to ride bicycles on side walks in NYC.

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#14 of 39 Old 10-29-2010, 10:02 PM
 
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Wow, I am amazed that anyone thinks it is reasonable to sue a kid for an accident on her bike with training wheels, or even her parents. But then I don't come from a litigation-crazy country, so it makes no sense to me at all.

When are kids allowed to make mistakes and be kids? Heck, as a just-5 yo I apparently cannoned around a corner on a scooter and knocked a visiting minister off his feet at my aunt's house. My parents were mortified, but that was mainly because he was a minister, not because as a 5 yo I should have known better than to ride my scooter on a pathway. Thank goodness we didn't live in the USA, or else I guess we could have ended up in court.

I could see my 5 yo accidentally running into someone on his bike or scooter, if he were distracted or misjudged a distance or speed. I don't think he's unusual, he's just a kid. That's what kids do - or at least, that's what normal kids in my world do. Not often, but it happens. It's called an accident.

The world is crazy....whatever happened to the notion of accidents happening, and people apologizing, taking flowers, sending a Get Well card, and seeing it for what it is - an accident?

Poor family. And no matter how much any of us might think it wouldn't happen to us as we are 'responsible' parents, it could easily happen to anyone. Some kids might be more likely to get into a scrape than others, but you cannot micromanage a child for its entire childhood, (unless you want to do extreme emotional and psychological harm), and any child can have an accident, in the blink of an eye. I hope that the judges see sense and dismiss this case.

Poor little girl.
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#15 of 39 Old 10-29-2010, 10:06 PM
 
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The article says that the mothers ARE named in the suit, "Her estate sued the children and their mothers, claiming they had acted negligently during the accident."

What on Earth is the point in naming the kids? I see it as malicious on the part of those filing. Sometimes, bad things happen. We don't have to sue over every single bad event that happens. Unless the kids TRIED to hit the woman, I see this as an accident, not negligence or anything else.

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#16 of 39 Old 10-29-2010, 10:10 PM
 
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I didnt read the posted article but I did read it on another board... The lady was 87 and when she fell she broke her hip. ( really any hard tumble at 87 can break a hip) She died of complications from the surgery ( or so I read). Up to age 12 a bike can be ridden on the side walk in NYC so the child was allowed to be riding there.

I think its absolutely crazy to sue a 4 yr old.

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#17 of 39 Old 10-29-2010, 10:41 PM
 
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Well, since this was 3 years ago, I can write about it now. DS was riding his Power Wheels with my husband (so not on my watch ), and he ran into our neighbor. She's in her late 60s. They were in a church parking lot across the street. DS was going in a straight line, and she stopped to catch her breath. He didn't stop (not clear on whether there was time), but he hit her. She fell off her bike and braced her fall by putting her hand out.

Two weeks later, she came by to tell us her wrist was broken. She'd walked her dog the next day, and it was a huge, not-well-trained dog. When the dog pulled, her wrist was damaged more. She never said so directly, but she was really fishing for us to offer to pay her medical bills. We didn't offer because as far as I could tell from both her story & Dh's version, both my son (really, my husband, I'd say) and our neighbor were at fault. She absolutely believed, though, that DS was at fault because she was "elderly," and he should respect his elders.

We just said "thanks for letting us know" and that was it. We avoided her for a while because I didn't want to get into a confrontation about it. My point is that it's hard to know what really happened in this instance. My neighbor just had this idea that people her age are to be deferred to, and so it *couldn't* have been her fault, even though she'd stopped her bike in front of DS because she didn't have the stamina to continue riding. Even all this time later (and I hadn't thought of this in ages until reading this thread), I don't think we were negligent parents. It was an accident. I can see how a child who's almost 5 could have hit someone without ill will. A fragile 87-year-old could have fallen pretty easily, so it wouldn't even have to be a huge hit for a fall to happen.

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#18 of 39 Old 10-29-2010, 10:46 PM
 
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Well, as the daughter of the elderly woman, I might be mad enough to sue. I think it would depend on how the parents of the child handled it. Their actions could go a long way to make me feel like they were truly sorry. When you are dealing with grief, you do and say things you probably wouldn't do normally.

In America, we sue for anything we can think of. You can have a robber break into your house, and hurt himself, and he can sue you and win.

Kids shouldn't be allowed to run down old women on the sidewalk, and have no consequence. It was obviously an accident. But, as with most accidents, someone can be sued for it. Even if it's a little girl. (I don't hold that child accountable... it just was an accident.. she probably felt terrible too)

A few summers ago, an 11 yr old boy was hit by a car. I live in the desert, so it was 113 that day. He was hurt, but he was seriously burned while lying on the hot pavement. His parents sued the people who stopped to help him, because they didn't move him off of the pavement. They didn't sue the man who hit him, they sued the good Samaritans. (can't remember how that turned out though.. but, it was big news here)

When I was five, I was racing on my two wheeler, and I drove right into the path of an oncoming car. I hit it head on. It was completely my fault, but I couldn't stop once I knew it was happening. This was in the 60s when if you got hit by a car, you were in trouble at home for getting hit by a car. LOL. My MOm was mad at me for breaking my bike. But, the old man who hit me (actually, I hit him) picked me up the next day, took me to Sears and bought me a new orange bike! (who sends their five year old to sears with an old man?) It was my fault, but he wanted to replace my bike anyway. These days, a parent would sue the old man, and probably win.
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#19 of 39 Old 10-29-2010, 11:15 PM
 
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Ok, so even though this isn't a criminal issue, I just e-mailed my criminal law professor to see if she could explain the ultimate goal in suing the 4 yr. old. We were actually just studying about mens rea and the levels of Purposefully, knowingly, recklessly, and negligently. I can see this act being negligence, but not on the part of the child, I see the mother as being negligent for allowing the child to ride fast on the sidewalk (yes, I know it's legal, but none the less, if anyone was negligent it was the mother). I can't see the child being negligent because for negligence the person has to comprehend that what they are doing could possibly cause harm. I don't think a child, at 4, has that ability. What's more is that I can't comprehend what the goal in suing a four year old is unless they can sue for future earnings. So I asked. Hopefully she answers me sometime tomorrow.

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#20 of 39 Old 10-29-2010, 11:19 PM
 
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Well, as the daughter of the elderly woman, I might be mad enough to sue. I think it would depend on how the parents of the child handled it. Their actions could go a long way to make me feel like they were truly sorry. When you are dealing with grief, you do and say things you probably wouldn't do normally.

In America, we sue for anything we can think of. You can have a robber break into your house, and hurt himself, and he can sue you and win.

Kids shouldn't be allowed to run down old women on the sidewalk, and have no consequence. It was obviously an accident. But, as with most accidents, someone can be sued for it. Even if it's a little girl. (I don't hold that child accountable... it just was an accident.. she probably felt terrible too)

A few summers ago, an 11 yr old boy was hit by a car. I live in the desert, so it was 113 that day. He was hurt, but he was seriously burned while lying on the hot pavement. His parents sued the people who stopped to help him, because they didn't move him off of the pavement. They didn't sue the man who hit him, they sued the good Samaritans. (can't remember how that turned out though.. but, it was big news here)

When I was five, I was racing on my two wheeler, and I drove right into the path of an oncoming car. I hit it head on. It was completely my fault, but I couldn't stop once I knew it was happening. This was in the 60s when if you got hit by a car, you were in trouble at home for getting hit by a car. LOL. My MOm was mad at me for breaking my bike. But, the old man who hit me (actually, I hit him) picked me up the next day, took me to Sears and bought me a new orange bike! (who sends their five year old to sears with an old man?) It was my fault, but he wanted to replace my bike anyway. These days, a parent would sue the old man, and probably win.
If your state has good samaritan laws then hopefully it got thrown out. With that said, in my state, we have issues with people getting bad burns from the asphalt as well. But, in training for EMT, we are still taught that the burns are less important than stabilizing the head, and moving properly. You can survive burns without loss of life or mobility, you don't have the same odds with a broken neck that's being tossed around. I imagine it the case wouldn't win. With that said, in our society, who knows. I just hope your state has the good samaritan laws to protect those people.

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#21 of 39 Old 10-29-2010, 11:28 PM
 
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Ok, so even though this isn't a criminal issue, I just e-mailed my criminal law professor to see if she could explain the ultimate goal in suing the 4 yr. old. We were actually just studying about mens rea and the levels of Purposefully, knowingly, recklessly, and negligently. I can see this act being negligence, but not on the part of the child, I see the mother as being negligent for allowing the child to ride fast on the sidewalk (yes, I know it's legal, but none the less, if anyone was negligent it was the mother). I can't see the child being negligent because for negligence the person has to comprehend that what they are doing could possibly cause harm. I don't think a child, at 4, has that ability. What's more is that I can't comprehend what the goal in suing a four year old is unless they can sue for future earnings. So I asked. Hopefully she answers me sometime tomorrow.
I'll be really interested to see the response to this. I have a 4 year old (although he's only 4 yrs 3 months). I do tell him to be careful, and would be horrified if something like this happened, but goodness, accidents do happen. What good could come from suing a little kid???
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#22 of 39 Old 10-30-2010, 02:37 AM
 
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I'm guessing that the purpose of naming the children is on the chance that the parents are found somehow not at fault. I think under the right circumstances, the parents could be found not at fault for the fall. If you sue only the parents, then the plantiff would get nothing. However, its possible that the parents have no fault but the kids still do. If you sue the kids, you can lose against the parents win against the kids, and the parents still pay.

I'm thinking, for instance, say your normally well behaved child one day goes outside and accidentally throws his ball threw a window. You didn't tell him to do this, you weren't even there, and he's never harmed someones property before so you couldn't have known. It clearly NOT your fault that he threw a ball through the window. It is however HIS responsibility legally, even if it was an accident.

As far as a child knocking over the woman, some elderly people are more frail than others. If she was extremely unsteady on her feet, it might have only taken a small bump to knock her over. We cant really tell from the article.

I think in court, the lawyers will have to prove that the children knew they should not have been racing so fast etc. They'll probably bring in experts to talk about what is developmentally appropriate to expect of children their age. A lot of what a 4 year old knows is only what has been taught at home, so I think its a big leap to say ALL 4 year olds would know to look both ways, not race etc. At that age, if they haven't been directly taught, they just don't know. And even if they have been taught, 4 year olds do not think or reason like adults, and tend not to be able to equate action with consequence in the moment.
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#23 of 39 Old 10-30-2010, 08:56 AM
 
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I wouldn't sue, but would be seriously pissed if I got ran over on the sidewalk by an out of control 4 year old.
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#24 of 39 Old 10-30-2010, 01:05 PM
 
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Also, I want to add, I was at the store with my mother who walks with a cane. She got knocked over by some horrid kids who were running fast up and down the aisles. We asked them to stop, please watch out, but they would not stop. No parents were in sight. And then they knocked my mom over. They really creamed her. I mean, they were running at full speed and their parents did not care. My mom ended up in the hospital for months. I think it would have been great if she had sued the parents of those kids. Those kids and the parents of those kids never apologized, not once.
I see this all the time in my store. I do stop the kids and tell them that (a) they are not at the playground and (b) they need to stay with the adult(s) they are there with. If they continue, I take them to the adult(s) myself and tell the adult(s) that the children must be supervised in our store. If it still doesn't stop, I ask them to leave. We have a lot of older customers, and I don't want to see one of them injured by an un- or poorly supervised child.

In the posted situation, I think the two parents should be held accountable for their children's actions. A city sidewalk is not a place to play Tricycle Wars.
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#25 of 39 Old 10-30-2010, 01:19 PM
 
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Also, I want to add, I was at the store with my mother who walks with a cane. She got knocked over by some horrid kids who were running fast up and down the aisles. We asked them to stop, please watch out, but they would not stop. No parents were in sight. And then they knocked my mom over. They really creamed her. I mean, they were running at full speed and their parents did not care. My mom ended up in the hospital for months. I think it would have been great if she had sued the parents of those kids. Those kids and the parents of those kids never apologized, not once.
I can believe that It really shocks me what people will let their kids do in public. We were at Once Upon a Child and there was a woman with three kids who were terrorizing the store. I mean running, screaming, tearing stuff off the racks, running over people, taking the bikes and riding them around the parking lot, etc. It was horrible. The mom never once tried to stop them.

Suing the child seems pointless, though. But sure, if I was injured because a negligent parent let their kid hurt me to the point I had to go to the hospital, I'd see about suing to get those costs covered.
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#26 of 39 Old 10-30-2010, 01:34 PM
 
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So if the kid is found liable, and the parents are not, what happens? How is a non trust fund kid to pay the compensation? Can they really expect the parents to pay it, when they were found innocent? Does the judgement sit there until the kid turns 18, and then they have to work to pay it?
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#27 of 39 Old 10-30-2010, 01:52 PM
 
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If a child cannot be held liable for murder, because he is under age, then I don't see how a child can have a judgment sit until he is 18.
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#28 of 39 Old 10-30-2010, 02:11 PM
 
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If a child cannot be held liable for murder, because he is under age, then I don't see how a child can have a judgment sit until he is 18.
Because criminal offenses are prosecuted differently (for both children and adults) than civil matters.

In addition, if a child murders someone, they most definitely do have records and penalties sit until they are 21 (and even beyond in some areas). They don't say to the murder victim's family, "Oh, so sad, too bad, neener neener" and walk away without penalty. True, in most states they will not face life in prison or the death penalty, but they DO pay a price.

If you cause an accident, injure someone in an accident, or damage property accidentally, you will be held liable, but you're not going to go to jail unless you were breaking the law (drunk, high, illegal driving). You may have liens placed against your property, have wage garnishment, ect in order to force you to pay your restitution--but you're not facing death row charges.
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#29 of 39 Old 10-30-2010, 04:00 PM
 
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I understand the differences between criminal and civil matters, but it just doesn't seem to make sense sometimes.

And yes, some underage kids DO get away with crimes and the law says "neener neener" to the victim. Not for murder, but other crimes. This I know for a fact. My mother's home was broken into and burglarized by my nephew, another juvenile and an adult. They stole her jewelry and other items that were never recovered and caused major damage. NONE of them were made to pay her back in ANY way and NONE of them did any jail time. To me, that is saying to my mom, "Neener neener". And my mom cannot sue my nephew or the other former juvenile for civil damages since they were underage at the time. So...
How can you place a lien or have a judgment against a small child?
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#30 of 39 Old 10-30-2010, 05:47 PM
 
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And yes, some underage kids DO get away with crimes and the law says "neener neener" to the victim. Not for murder, but other crimes. This I know for a fact. My mother's home was broken into and burglarized by my nephew, another juvenile and an adult. They stole her jewelry and other items that were never recovered and caused major damage. NONE of them were made to pay her back in ANY way and NONE of them did any jail time. To me, that is saying to my mom, "Neener neener". And my mom cannot sue my nephew or the other former juvenile for civil damages since they were underage at the time. So...
How can you place a lien or have a judgment against a small child?
So, given that your mom was hurt, and you seem angry about that, does that mean that every other person who is hurt by an underage person should have to suck it up too because your mom did? To me, causing someone bodily injury is just as severe, if not more so, than damaging property. Because you are angry that your mom didn't have recourse doesn't seem like a good reason to demand that nobody harmed by a child should have recourse.

The legal answer for how is simple. If you live in a state that allows minors to be sued for damages (and it doesn't seem clear to me that the judge followed the actual law in this case, from what I have read) then you can have a judgement against a child--which means that eventually, should they have a tangible asset at some point before the judgement is fulfilled, you can place a lien on it.

As to the "coulda/shoulda/woulda" question--I don't understand why people are assuming greed/malice on the part of the relatives of the victim. Perhaps I have a very jaded view, having dealt with many parents who refuse to make their children take responsibility for anything (or to take responsibility for their children)--but I can see a case where the parents just gave the victim's family the finger, and so the family is incensed and going full tilt in response. Not the most healthy response, or the most satisfying use of their time (IMO) but...I can certainly understand. OTOH, perhaps this arose out of some insurance bickering (parental liability insurance won't pay, victim health insurance won't pay or she was uninsured, ect). We don't really know. I'm just saying that I find the responses that seem to imply that if kids will be kids, and nobody is responsible for anything that they do very interesting. Interesting that this of course only applies to old ladies who dare to be walking along the sidewalk where kids ride bicycles, and not when one's kids are bullied/beat up/sexually harassed by other kids who may or may not "know better" and who are also minors.

If my children caused huge injury to someone, then you better believe that they would face consequences from ME at the very least. If they cause massive damage to someone or something, I really couldn't care less about what the law says, I expect them (and me, if my negligence and insufficient instruction led to the accident) to make restitution somehow. This very well could have happened in this case, but the elderly person's family refused to accept it and pressed on (it's not like that doesn't happen)--but IME it could have easily gone the other way, with the parents saying "So sue me, you shouldn't have gotten in the way, my kids aren't responsible and neither am I."
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