NY Supreme Court Judge Ruled 4-Year-Old can be Sued for 2009 Accident

10/29/2010 // WPB, FL, USA // Personal Injury Lawyers News // Nicole Howley

Manhattan, NY—A State Supreme Court Judge ruled that a 4-year-old can be sued over a 2009 accident, where the toddler hit an elderly woman while riding her bicycle with training wheels, as reported by the New York Times.

Justice Paul Wooten of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan ruled that a lawsuit can be brought against the girl, but did not indicate that she should be held liable.

In April 2009, the 4-year-old girl, Juliet Breitman, and Jacob Kohn, 4, were racing their bicycles on the sidewalk of a building on East 52nd Street, under adult supervision of their mothers, Dana Breitman and Rachel Kohn. During the race, the kids hit Claire Menagh, 87, who was walking in front of the building. She was “seriously and severely injured,” when she sustained a hip fracture from the incident, which required surgery, according to the complaint. Menagh died three weeks later.

The children and their mothers were sued by Menagh’s estate, claiming they had acted negligently during the accident.

Usually children under the age of 4 are presumed to be incapable of negligence, but because she was three months away from turning 5, the judge decided she was old enough to be sued.

Judge Wooten ruled, “A parent’s presence alone does not give a reasonable child carte blanche to engage in risky behavior such as running across a street. 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.”

But, in this case, the judge found 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,” the judge wrote. 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.”

Legal News Reporter: Nicole Howley- Legal news for New York personal injury lawyers.

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