They all grow up so fast with their unlimited the access to media and television. Where’s the innocent stuff they should like to do? The kind of activities that their parents once loved — like riding bikes? That should stave off the impending reach of adolescence, right?
Well, not for one little girl in New York City.
Citing cases dating back to 1928, a New York City judge has ruled that a four year old accused of running down an elderly woman while racing her bike down a Manhattan sidewalk can be sued for negligence.
Yup, a four year old.
In April 2009, Juliet Breitman and Jacob Kohn, who were both 4, were racing their bicycles, under the supervision of their mothers, Dana Breitman and Rachel Kohn, on the sidewalk of a building on East 52nd Street. At some point in the race, they struck an 87-year-old woman named Claire Menagh, who was walking in front of the building and, according to the complaint, was “seriously and severely injured,” suffering a hip fracture that required surgery. She died three months later (via NYT).
The estate of the deceased women sued the mothers. The mothers lawyers then argued that the girl was not “engaged in an adult activity” at the time of the accident and was too young to be held liable for negligence.
But a judge rejected a motion to dismiss the case because of Juliet’s age, noting that she was three months shy of turning 5 when Ms. Menagh was struck, and thus old enough to be sued.
The lawyer had also argued that the young girl should not be held liable because her mother was present, but the judge disagreed.
A parent’s presence alone does not give a reasonable child carte blanche to engage in risky behavior such as running across a street,” the judge wrote. He added that any “reasonably prudent child,” who presumably has been told to look both ways before crossing a street, should know that dashing out without looking is dangerous, with or without a parent there. He concluded that there was no evidence of Juliet’s “lack of intelligence or maturity” or anything to “indicate that another child of similar age and capacity under the circumstances could not have reasonably appreciated the danger of riding a bicycle into an elderly woman.
Moral of the story – don’t raise your kids in New York City.