Personal Injury Lawyers
Attorney Van O'Steen

Beyond Parental Liability, Antics by Minor Can Bring Legal Charge

Van O'Steen

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Recently in this column, I wrote about an Arizona statute that makes parents or guardians liable for intentional acts of their children that cause injury to others or damages to their property. Parents can be held automatically liable for up to $10,000 in damage.  Although not automatic under some circumstances, this legal responsibility may extend to the full value of the victim's damages, including personal injury.

This financial penalty imposed on parents may not be the only legal consequence of offending minors. A minor is anyone under the age of 18.  A child who commits a criminal act also may be charged with being "delinquent."  Delinquency cases are handled by county juvenile courts.

In one Arizona case, a boy was judged delinquent for spraying a liquid (an irritant similar to Mace) in another boy's face.

The incident occurred as the victim was riding his bicycle near his home.  The attacker approached from behind and sprayed the victim in the face. As the victim tried to escape, he was sprayed in the face a second time.

The victim managed to get away, apparently suffering only minor temporary symptoms—burning in his eyes and blurred vision.

The injury was not serious and may have been well under the civil liability ceiling of $10,000, but this attack constituted an assault under Arizona law. It was sufficient to bring the offending child into the juvenile court system and have him adjudicated as delinquent.

Even if you are not subjected to any civil claim for damages, you should not make the mistake of assuming that childhood pranks will be ignored by the authorities.

The law provides added incentives to do your best to control your children. With enough guidance and supervision, you should be able to avoid lawsuits and juvenile court delinquency actions stemming from your children's behavior.