Personal injuries caused by minors are not uncommon in Hong Kong. Are the parents, being the caretakers, liable for the torts committed by their child? This article aims to discuss the general legal principles on parental responsibility to third party under the tort of negligence.
Do Parents Owe Duty to Third Party?
The Court held that there is no general duty arising simply from parenthood to prevent a child from causing damage to third parties and a parent is not vicariously liable for his child’s wrong doing. Constant supervision of a child is not always required. The duty of a parent is to exercise a reasonable degree of supervision and control over the child, in view of any foreseeable danger in the activities the child was involved in at the relevant time, taking into account that particular child’s propensity to meddle.
As the boy was a well behaved independent 8 years old boy with no aggressive temperament, and that there was no evidence that the defendants could have foreseen any danger or special circumstances, the Court found that requiring close and constant supervision under these circumstances would be imposing an impossible task on parents. It was, therefore, held that the parents were not negligent and not liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.
Reasonable Degree of Supervision and Control
Age of the Child
Dangerous Propensity of the Child
In Smith v. Leurs (1945) 70 C.L.R. 256, the Court considered that where there is knowledge of a child’s unusual characteristics, the analogy of knowledge-based liability for domestic animals may be applicable. In the cases involving the owner’s liability for domestic animals, the Court held that if a tamed dog of mild disposition bites someone as a result of a spontaneous act which is wholly out of character, the act of biting is unforeseeable and the owner will not be liable. On the other hand, if the dog is a fierce and dangerous breed and it is reasonably foreseeable that the dog will bite, the owner will be liable if proper precautions are not taken.
Giving the Child a Dangerous Object
The law and procedure on this subject are very specialized and complicated. This article is just a very general outline for reference and cannot be relied upon as legal advice in any individual case. If any advice or assistance is needed, please contact our solicitors.
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Published by ONC Lawyers © 2013