Pam and Bob and their six-year old son Walker were visiting their friends the Smiths. The Smiths had a small, playful puppy that Walker took an immediate liking to. While none of the adults were watching, Walker decided that he was going to stick his finger into the eye of the small puppy. The puppy immediately reacted by biting Walker on his finger deep enough to require stitches.
ISSUE: Are the Smiths in any way liable for this incident or can Walker be considered negligent for his own injuries?
ANSWER: In Pennsylvania, children under seven-years old cannot be considered negligent under any circumstances. From the ages of seven to fourteen, there is a diminishing presumption that the child cannot be negligent. After fourteen, the child can be held fully responsible for any harm that is caused to them if they were negligent in bringing about the harm. In conclusion, Walker cannot be held responsible even though he clearly provoked the dog. The Smiths will not be considered responsible because in this case the puppy simply reacted in self defense. Pam and Bob would be responsible for the medical bills for their son who hopefully would have learned a lesson.
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.