A New York Supreme Court Judge ruled last week that a child who was 4-years-old at the time she crashed her bike with training wheels into an elderly woman is old enough to be sued.
For what? Her Dora the Explorer lunchbox and custody of a herd of stuffed animals? Face it, the judge was saying her parents could be sued.
The little girl, Juliet, and her speed demon buddy Jacob, who was already a mature 5-year-old, were racing their bicycles on the sidewalk under the supervision of their mothers, an article in the New York Times states, whenÂ both crashed into 87-year-old Claire Menagh, who suffered a broken hip that required surgery. Menagh died three months later of unrelated causes. Her estate sued the children and their mothers, claiming they had acted negligently during the incident. Jacob and his mom aren’t fighting the suit, the report claims.
Juliet’s lawyerÂ James Tyrie (yep, the 4-year-old has a lawyer) said she was not “engaged in adult activity” at the time of the incident and should not be held liable. I think he cited the training wheels. I mean, if you’re using training wheels, obviously you’re not engaged in adult activity, right? In legal papers, Tyrie added, â€œCourts have held that an infant under the age of 4 is conclusively presumed to be incapable of negligence.â€
But the judge, Justice Justice Paul Wooten of State Supreme Court in Manhattan, cited case law dating as far back as 1928, the New York Times states, and declined to stretch that rule to children over 4. On Oct. 1, he rejected a motion to dismiss the case because of Julietâ€™s age, noting that she was three months shy of turning 5 when Menagh was struck, and thus old enough to be sued.
“Juliet, however, was over the age of 4 at the time of the subject incident,” he wrote.Â Â “For infants above the age of 4, there is no bright-line rule.”
ApparentlyÂ the lawyer also argued that Juliet should not be held liable because her mother was present; Justice Wooten disagreed.
“A parentâ€™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. He 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.
Reasonably prudent child. Now there’s a phrase that makes me stop and go “Hmmmm….”Â A kidÂ about the age of 9 dashed out into the street in downtown Worthington the other day after a ball. If I hadn’t been paying close attention, I would have run him over. I had to slam on my brakes, my heart was pounding like that of a cornered rabbit, and he was standing in front of my car holding his soccer ball staring at me like a deer caught in headlights. Then the little jerk gave me the finger and ran away. I was reasonably prudent enough not to chase him down and stuff his ball down his throat.
So that kid obviously wasn’t reasonably prudent, but the judge expects the 4-year-old to act so.
Sorry, Juliet. We know you didn’t mean to run down the lady, but gather up your Pretty, Pretty Princess jewelry anyway. It’s about to be sold so you can pay off your debt to society and the little old lady’s family.