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Friday, October 2, 2009

THE LIABILITY OF SUPERVISING CHILDREN

There's some trouble brewing in Virginia, something that will inevitably spill over to other states if we're not careful. In the case of Kellerman v. McDonough, et al, a 14 year old North Carolina girl was accidentally killed in an automobile accident while visiting a friend in Virginia. This resulted in a wrongful death lawsuit against the mother of the friend who, according to the plaintiff, was responsible for supervising the child while in her custody. Although a lower court dismissed the case, the Virginia Supreme Court overturned the decision. In a nutshell, it means adults are liable for any injury incurred by a child placed in their custody for supervision, even if the injury is committed by a third party (as was the case of the 14 year old). For details on the case, click HERE.

Consider what this means from a social aspect. As kids we used to visit our friends' homes all the time, play, cause whatever mischief we could, and, Yes, sometimes fall down and hurt ourselves. Now, with this decision, parents will be less inclined to let neighbor children visit their homes in fear of a lawsuit. This means children will spend more time "locked up" at home and have fewer opportunities to socialize with other people. Further, this could conceivably lead to the end of the "good neighbor policy" whereby we will see more frivolous lawsuits enacted pitting neighbor against neighbor. However, this will not stop simply at next-door neighbors, but will also involve baby-sitters, teachers, coaches, crossing guards, bus drivers, shopkeepers, you name it; anyone who may come in contact with a youngster. What's next? Obviously a mountain of waivers allowing adults to come in contact with a child.

All of this because of a single tragic accident. I do not know the specifics of the case, particularly the dynamics between the cast of characters prior to the accident, but it sounds to me like the parents are partially to blame for allowing their daughter to be placed in harm's way. And now we will all have to feel the effects of their decision.

Another lawsuit, which is somewhat similar in nature, comes from Staten Island, New York where a mother finally settled a lawsuit with the New Springville Little League for $125,000. It seems a few years ago her son injured his knee while trying to stretch a single into a double under the instruction of the coach. The mother argued that the Little League and coaches were negligent in teaching her son how to properly slide (the defendants countered otherwise). For more information on this case, click HERE.

Here again is another instance where the rest of the world will feel the effect of a seemingly inane lawsuit. As in the first lawsuit, this will undoubtedly result in more waivers to be signed by children and parents in order for them to participate in any kind of organized activity, such as sports, picnics, playgrounds, tag, hide-and-go-seek, and tiddlywinks.

My God, will this madness ever end? Can't we invent a single waiver that can be universally applicable? Something like...

"The undersigned hereby agrees to hold harmless anyone I willfully come in contact with, that I won't act like a dumb ass, and that I alone will be responsible for my own actions. Further, if any accident befalls me, I will not make use of any ambulance chaser to try to squeeze blood from a turnip."

What a horrendous price to pay for the lack of common sense. The insurance companies are going to love it.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

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Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.