Civil Liability In Injury To A Minor

Date: November 23, 2011
Posted In: DLP Law


Shawn and Casey were brothers. Shawn was eight and Casey was ten. They fought like ordinary brothers but were both delighted when the first heavy snow fell. The boys went into the front yard and, with the assistance of their father, made a large igloo. The boy\’s neighbors had a young four year old boy named Paul. Unbeknownst to Paul\’s parents, early Saturday morning several days after the snow storm, Paul wandered out of the house and immediately made a beeline to the igloo and climbed in.

Paul\’s mother noticed that Paul was missing and became frantic. Apparently it was warm the night before and, when Paul entered the igloo, part of it collapsed on him. Paul sustained a broken shoulder and some other minor injuries.

Paul\’s parents felt that Shawn and Casey\’s parents should be responsible for the medical bills. The brother\’s parents felt that Paul\’s mother was negligent in not keeping a closer eye on her son.

ISSUE: Which of the parents are right?

ANSWER: In the case: both. The igloo constitutes what is called an “attractive nuisance.” It is somewhat similar to a swimming pool that does not have a gate around it when there are small children in the neighborhood. Paul was attracted to the igloo and, at the age of four, did not have the ability of understanding the potential danger of going inside. Fortunately for Shawn and Casey\’s parents, their home owners insurance will cover Paul\’s medical bills. If Paul\’s parents were to bring a law suit, Paul\’s mother would be joined as a defendant on the allegation that her negligence contributed to any injuries that little Paul sustained. In all likelihood, Paul\’s parents should and would be satisfied just to have Paul\’s medical bills paid.

* Disclaimer: The above article is for instructive purposes only and each case is fact sensitive. Consultation with an attorney should be obtained instead of reliance upon the legal issues discussed in this column.

Tom Cummings
Thomas P. Cummings has been a Partner with Dougherty Leventhal & Price, LLP since 1996 and has been with the firm since 1991. He focuses his practice on workers’ compensation, Social Security Disability and personal injury cases.