A recent Reddit post went viral where a woman has demanded that her brother pay her back after his children flushed her $30,000 engagement ring down the toilet. She has asked the children’s father, her brother, to pay the damage after the ring was lost forever, as she says his children did it so he should pay.
What if the ring was NOT insured, is the father responsible legally for damages inflicted by his young kids?
American law definitively holds parents responsible for the actions of their children across the board.
Parental responsibility laws exist in every state in some form. These statutes cover the legal consequences of damage or injury inflicted by a minor or child on a person, place, or thing. The laws apply to damaged places or items, as well as to persons who are injured. Some states categorize the parents’ liability by the tort or crime committed by the minor, and some also have age categories as determining factors in assessing the parent’s fault.
The specifics of parental liability laws depend on the language of the particular state’s statute, but parents may be financially responsible when a child damages or destroys property, or injures someone, intentionally or maliciously. In some states, parents may even be liable for the harm their children cause accidentally or unintentionally.
In New York, the New York General Obligations Law Sec. 3-112 called “3-112. Liability of parents and legal guardians having custody of an infant for certain damages caused by such infant” governs parental liability for actions of their minor children. This law can be found here.
New York law holds that parents or guardians are responsible for the actions of their children who OVER 10 years old, but younger than 18 years. The government decided that at age 10, parents should be accountable for damages caused by their children. At age 18 the child in question is an adult and tried as such in a court of law. Under this statute, the parent has to pay restitution to the injured or damaged party, but may also ask for a break due to financial circumstances. There is no liability if the child is under 10 years old.
In summary NY parental liability law only applies if a minor child is over 10, and less than 18, years old.
The NY parental liability law applies to all biological and adoptive parents and guardians of children aged 10 to 18. However, it does not apply to foster children or their foster parents.
And what about other states?
A recent Virginia case showed that parents are also held criminally liable for actions of their children. In Virginia, this month, a mother was charged with two felonies when a grand jury returned two indictments of felony child neglect and misdemeanor after they found that the defendant mother recklessly left a loaded firearm in her 6-year old son’s reach. The 6-year old boy then brought a shotgun to school and shot his teacher in the chest and hand, leading to serious injuries.
Therefore, damages done by young children should be the liability of a parent.
The brother may be liable for the ring flushed down the toilet, but it also depends on what state the ring flushing took place in.
Call Shepelsky Law today to get answer on your questions.