Parental Immunity: What You Might Want to Know
You may have heard of the term parental immunity and wondered what it actually means. Does this doctrine shield you if your child is accidentally injured due to your actions? In reality, the answer is that it depends on the individual circumstances.
In New Jersey, the issue of parental immunity was first discussed in a 1935 case decided by the court. At the time auto accident personal injury claims were becoming more frequent. This particular matter involved a teenager who was injured in an accident when his father was behind the wheel.
At that time, the court ruled that a child could not sue his parent for negligence. In fact, the written opinion incorporated an old familiar quote: “While the family relation of parent and child exists, with its reciprocal rights and obligations, the latter should not be taught ‘to bite the hand that feeds it,’ and no such action as the present should be entertained by the courts.”
So, now that you know the origin of parental immunity, you may want to know how it applies to today’s legal system.
Evolution of Parental Immunity
Things have changed since the first ruling invoking parental immunity. These days it is not uncommon for someone to pursue a claim on behalf of a child against a parent. Of course, there must be an indication of some type of negligence.
Nevertheless, parental immunity may sometimes act as a defense used by insurance companies. It remains clear that the courts do not really want to intervene in the way parents supervise or take care of their children. However, what if a parent’s failure to adequately protect a child resulted in injury?
In New Jersey, the courts have consistently ruled that there must be proof that the improper supervision was actually “willful and wanton misconduct.”
You can read a bit about this concept in Foldi v. Jeffries, 93 N.J. 533 (1983). In this matter, a mother brought her toddler outside with her. As the mother began to garden, the child wandered from her side. Unfortunately, the young girl managed to get two houses away and encountered a neighbor’s dog. The dog bit the child in the face.
To make a long story short, a claim was brought against the mother for improperly supervising and caring for her daughter’s safety. The court applied the doctrine of parental immunity to this matter. It ruled that the mother was not guilty of willful and wanton misconduct.
It goes without saying that every accident claim is different. As a law firm with experience in all aspects of personal injury law, the Law Offices of Anthony Carbone works hard to investigate claims and determine the negligent parties. Have questions concerning the prospect of a lawsuit? Call us to schedule an appointment.