Who is Legally Responsible for the Conduct of a Child?

Adult Liability for Conduct of a Child

A parent or other person who has the duty of control and discipline of a child is liable for any property damage proximately caused by:

(1) the negligent conduct of the child if the conduct can reasonably be attributed to the negligent failure of the parent or other person to exercise that duty; or

(2) the willful and malicious conduct of a child who is between 10 and 18 years of age.

Recovery for damage caused by the willful and malicious conduct is limited to actual damages, not to exceed $25,000 per occurrence, plus court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.

Liability for Property Damage to an Inn or Hotel

Recovery of damages by an inn or hotel for willful and malicious conduct is limited to actual damages, not to exceed $25,000 per occurrence, plus court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees. “Occurrence” means one incident on a single day in one hotel room. The term does not include incidents in separate rooms or incidents that occur on different days.

A suit may be filed in the county in which the conduct of the child occurred or in the county in which the defendant resides.

Civil Liabilities

As a general rule, minors are civilly liable for their own wrongdoings. A parent may be liable if the parent negligently allows his child to act in a manner likely to harm another, if he gives his child a dangerous instrumentality, or if he does not restrain a child known to have dangerous tendencies. A parent’s duty to protect third parties from his child’s acts depends on whether the injury to the third party is foreseeable. Foreseeability is evaluated by looking at the parent’s knowledge of, consent to, or participation in the child’s activity.

A homeowner’s insurance policy might provide some coverage to the parent or other person who has the duty of control and reasonable discipline of child for property damage caused by a child in these circumstances.

Tim Whitten is certified as a Family Law Specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and is committed to helping clients resolve family law conflicts in a way that preserves family relationships. Please contact us at (512) 790-5066 or by email here for more information or to set up a consultation.

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