Can I be hit with a lawsuit for a child hitting another child under my supervision?
In some cases, you can be sued if you assume the obligation to supervise children, and one of them inflicts an injury on the other. But kids will be kids. Parents know that, and the law knows it too, to a certain extent.
An adult who has assumed the responsibility of watching over children (formally or informally) also assumes the legal obligation to take reasonable steps to provide for the kids' safety and prevent any child's injuries from occurring. But that obligation is not an absolute one -- you can’t be held legally liable for every last thing that goes wrong -- and cases like these really come down to the very specific circumstances surrounding the injury.
So, let’s say that Ann hit Billy while they were both under your care. Here are some factors that should be considered when it comes to whether you can be held liable for negligent supervision -- and, by extension, liable for the resulting injuries to Billy.
* Are you a professional child care provider, or were you just looking after the kids in an informal setting?
* How old is Ann, and how old is Billy?
* Did you have reason to believe that Ann represented a threat to Billy? Had Ann hit Billy in the past, so you would have had cause to keep them separated?
* Was Ann allowed access to something she should not have been able to get her hands on, and to make use of it as weapon? Or did she strike Billy with her fist?
* Had you turned your back for a few seconds to talk with another child when this happened, or were you on a latte run to the local coffee shop, leaving the kids alone for 20 minutes?
As you can see, your liability will hinge on whether you acted reasonably in supervising the children. In the eyes of the law, there are injuries that stem from accidents or unruly behavior on the one hand, and on the other hand there are preventable injuries that arise from an adult’s failure to provide adequate supervision.
by: David Goguen, J.D.
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