Judicial Stupidity – It’s Okay to Sue a Four Year Old Child

Justice Paul Wooten of State Supreme Court in Manhattan presumably doesn’t have children. He also apparently doesn’t have any common sense because he recently ruled that:

Judge Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Infants under the age of 4 are conclusively presumed incapable of negligence, Juliet Breitman, however, was over the age of 4 at the time of the subject incident. For infants above the age of 4, there is no bright-line rule.

Juliet was 4 years 9 months old when her tricycle when she struck an 87-year-old woman who was walking in front of the building.

Judge Wooten added that any “reasonably prudent child,” who presumably has been told to look both ways before crossing a street, should know that dashing out 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.”

In this case, however, there was nothing to indicate that Juliet’s mother “had any active role in the alleged incident, only that the mother was ‘supervising,’ a term that is too vague to hold meaning here,” he wrote. He concluded that there was no evidence of Juliet’s “lack of intelligence or maturity” or anything to “indicate 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.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. truly summed up this court’s decision when he said “this is a court of law, young [child], not a court of justice.”

3 Replies to "Judicial Stupidity - It's Okay to Sue a Four Year Old Child"

  • article47
    October 30, 2010 (12:09 am)

    According to the NYT article, the judge did not rule on whether the child was liable in tort or not. He simply allowed that the case could move to trial instead of being dismissed summarily.

    The notion that children may be sued in tort is not particularly troubling. I think that claimants against minor children will normally have a very hard time proving their case. In any event, very few such cases will ever be brought because, of course, they tend not to be economically practical. Could there be an insurance policy covering the child that makes it worthwhile to pursue this case with the child as a defendant?

    I always look forward to your posts. Keep up the good work.

    Emmanuel Lazaridis

  • Sean P. Rice
    November 10, 2010 (2:05 pm)

    The court has to finally make a decision about whether minors at particular age groups are able to consent/decide their actions, or not. If a four-year-old HAS the presence of mind to have malice as they drove a tricycle into an old lady, they do NOT then have the presence of mind to, I don’t know, commit murder? Explore a sexuality? Vote?

    That said, the law tends to put arbitrary ages on consent and responsibility which, in particular cases, it makes no sense. SOMETIMES, the law ignores age (i.e. teenage sexting) and the results become outrageous.

    As an UNCLE, I’ve seen my 2, 3, 4 year old nieces and nephews do REALLY strange things without ANY idea of the consequence that we as adults feel. Frankly, an 80 year old woman is BIG compared to a 4 year old. Hitting, in play, with tricycle would NOT lead to the consequence of a BIG person being hurt because big people are impervious to harm from a slight 4 year old. It’s EASY to see that a four-year-old could NOT have known the consequences of the action: OUR understanding of what an 80 year old is, is NOT the same as a four year old understanding of what a BIG person is.

  • Erick
    November 12, 2010 (9:27 am)

    The article that I read said she was riding a bicycle with training wheels (Not a tricycle – because a bike can travel faster than a tricycle). Furthermore she was RACING down the sidewalk with another child on a second bike, as the girls mother was “monitoring”. When she struck the 87yr old woman, the woman fell and broke her hip and had to have hip surgery. She subsequently died 3 weeks later. As a result the elderly woman’s family wanted to sue. Primarily because the parents of the child did not think they were responsible nor the child “because it was just an accident” that the girl hit the old lady.
    Also as one other comment wrote the Judge simply said the family has a legal right to sue the girl. He was simply approving what the law states…a child over 4 is liable. Simply put if a child breaks my window with his ball…someone is liable. Either the parent or the child. But dont be a parent and try to use your child as a scape goat to flee responsibility. We all must be accountable for our reckless actions…even children. Otherwise parents could use kids to rob banks or commit killings (since the parents were not involved and the child is a child…no one is at fault right)?