Parental Liability for Intentional Injuries Caused by a Minor Child in California

In the beginning, under common law, the law would generally support no legal liability of a parent for the willful misconduct of his or her minor child. However, this common law doctrine has slowly eroded as numerous exceptions have now been applied in case law. As a parent of a minor child who is in your physical and legal custody, you are well advised to supervise your minor child and do everything in your power to prevent him o her from getting in violent fights, conflict with others, or intentionally causing injuries, because California law imposes serious liability on parents of minor children in such circumstances without hesitation.

In addition to any liability for negligent supervision of minor children who cause injury or damage to property, a parent or a guardian is liable under California law, Civil Code Section 1714.1,49 for intentional misconduct of a minor child (such as criminal acts or destruction of public or private property) Any act of a minor child that results in injury or death to another person (or damage to property) will be imputed to the parent for all purposes of civil damages (the parent or guardian having custody—physical custody and not just legal custody is required). The liability of a parent for each such act by a minor child was originally limited to $25,000 in damages when this California law was enacted, but it is being adjusted by judicial council every two years, and it is currently at about $35,000. The law does change, so please be mindful of any changes that may have occurred. If the insurance coverage applies to the injury or damage caused by a minor, the insurer will not be liable for more than $10,000 of the total sum of damages caused by the minor child’s conduct.

The original motivation behind this California law was to impose liability to parents of minor children who committed acts of vandalism. These acts were usually limited to destruction of property or the defacement of property. However, through time, the law has been redrafted to impose parental liability on parents where bodily injury happens as the result of the child’s willful misconduct, and any willful misconduct that results in physical harm to another person is imputed to the parent.

Liability is also imposed by statute (California law) on parents for the intentional misconduct of children in other situations. These other situations include:

Per California Civil Code Section 1714.3,50 injury caused by a discharge of a weapon by a minor when the parent either permitted the minor to have a firearm or left the firearm in a place accessible to the minor (such liability is limited to $30,000 for injury to or death of one person or $60,000 for injury to or death of all persons involved in a single event);

Per California Education Code section 48904(a), an intentional act resulting in injury or death to any student or any person employed by performing volunteer services for a school district or private school;

Per California Vehicle Code sections 17150, and 17707, an intentional or negligent act by a minor in driving a parent’s vehicle with parent’s express or implied permission.

Mark C. Blane is a San Diego Child Injury/Accident Attorney and the managing lawyer of the Law Offices of Mark C. Blane, a San Diego, California Personal Injury Law Office dedicated to representing families of minor children injured due to the negligence of others. If you or a loved one, who is a minor child, has been injured or killed in a child accident in San Diego, please order your free copy of Mr. Blane's book, The 10 Secrets You Need To Know About Your Injury Case, BEFORE You Call A Lawyer. It is full of helpful information that will help you protect your legal rights and it normally sells for $16.95.  However, it is free to all California residents, or those injured in a California accident. Also, you can check out Mr. Blane's book on California child injuries called Justice for the Injured Child available for sale; this book has become a California parent's legal survival guide to their child's California accident case.