State Supreme Court Finds that Children Under Five Years Old Cannot Be Held Accountable for Negligence

The Utah Supreme Court recently released an opinion holding that as a matter of law, children under the age of five cannot be held accountable for their own negligence. The decision was handed down after the parents of a four-year-old boy appealed a district court decision that allowed a negligence case against their son to proceed. The plaintiff in the case of Nielsen v. Bell was made permanently blind in one eye after the defendant threw a toy at her while she was babysitting him. Based on the Utah Supreme Court’s decision, as well as the lower court’s ruling that dismissed a negligent supervision claim against the boy’s parents, the plaintiff will be unable to receive compensation for her injuries.

The District Court Found the Boy Could Be Held Accountable for Negligence

The plaintiff sued both the four-year-old boy and his parents for negligence after he threw a toy dolphin at her and struck her in the eye while she was babysitting him. Although she later agreed that her claim against the boy’s parents had no merit, the district court accepted her claim that the boy could be held accountable for negligence. On an interlocutory appeal by the boy’s parents, the Utah Supreme Court intervened in the case to settle the law on the minimum age at which a child can be held accountable for negligence.

The Utah Supreme Court elected to adopt a rule that puts a fixed age limit on the capability of children being liable for negligence. Although the defendants argued that the court should not allow claims against any child under the age of seven, the court decided to follow an alternative rule that barred claims against children younger than five. The court determined that children under the age of five have a limited capacity to appreciate how their actions can cause harm to themselves or others and have an inadequate internal ability to control impulses that may lead to injuries. Based on this finding, the court held as a matter of law that children under five can never be liable for negligence.

Florida Negligence Law as Applied to Children

The accepted law for holding a child responsible in a Florida negligence lawsuit is slightly different from that of Utah. Under Florida law, there is a presumption that children under the age of six are incapable of committing negligence. Unlike Utah, this presumption is not absolute, and it can be overcome based on the specific circumstances of a case. A child younger than six may be found negligent depending on their emotional development, their maturity, and the extent to which they exhibit intelligent discretion. The opposite can also be true, and a child older than seven may be found incapable of committing negligence. South Florida injury victims who may have a negligence claim against a child, regardless of their age, should consult with a knowledgeable Miami injury attorney to evaluate their claim and pursue relief if appropriate.

Are You a Victim of Negligence?

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed by the negligent act of another party, a consultation with a qualified South Florida accident attorney is the first step to obtaining compensation for your injuries. The skilled South Florida injury attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank are highly qualified and aggressively fight for the compensation our clients deserve. Our dedicated and experienced Miami injury lawyers can advise and counsel you regarding the best options for your case, and you can be confident that we have your best interests in mind. At Friedman, Rodman & Frank, we represent clients in Miami and throughout South Florida in most personal injury and wrongful death cases, including negligence cases. If you or a loved one have been injured, contact us toll-free at 877-448-8585 or via our online contact form. Se habla Español / Nou Parlé Creole.

More Blog Posts:

State Supreme Court Reverses $4.5 Million Award in Auto Accident Case, April 14, 2016, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

Families of Athletes Diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy May Have Claim against Sports League, March 25, 2016, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

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