"Case Analysis" Question 4 Response
Brian Dailey (a five year, nine month old boy)
BUT this should NOT be the end of your inquiry in response to this simple Question. Intellectual curiosity demands that you ask yourself a few additional questions on your own. For example,
WHY would anybody ever bring a lawsuit against a five-year old child?
Why wouldn’t the plaintiff have simply sued the child’s parents, instead?
How much money could Brian Dailey have had to make this lawsuit even worth pursuing?
These are just some of the questions that you should be asking at this early stage when reading this or any judicial opinion. This is what “intellectual curiosity” is all about. Figuring out answers to these (and similar questions) about this case will help you to better understand what is going on in this case, as well as why the court reached the decision that it did.
In response to the first two of these questions, supra, the plaintiff sued the child Brian, because HE is the one who actually committed the allegedly tortious act (pulling the chair out from underneath the plaintiff). Brian’s PARENTS had nothing to do with this incident. In fact, there is no indication in these facts that Brian’s parents were even present at all during the time of this incident. So, EVEN IF the plaintiff had wanted to sue Brian’s PARENTS in tort to recover damages for her injuries, she would have needed to find some tort that the PARENTS might have committed. However, in this case, there simply are no facts to support any tort action that might have been committed by Brian’s parents.
As to the last question, supra, while it is at least possible that young Brian may have been independently wealthy (e.g., maybe he had inherited a lot of money, or maybe he was a child prodigy who had earned a significant amount of money by virtue of his own talents or skills), most likely he did not have any significant amount of money of his own.
So, HOW could Brian have paid any tort judgment even if the plaintiff wins this lawsuit?
The MOST LIKELY ANSWER is the same thing that drives ALMOST ALL of the civil TORT litigation in this country: LIABILITY INSURANCE. Brian’s parents most likely had liability insurance that provided compensation for liability claims against any of the members of their household (including young Brian), even when those claims arise on property outside of their own property (as in this case). Depending upon the terms of their insurance policy, this coverage may also have been available to provide coverage for various tort claims, even with respect to certain INTENTIONAL TORTS committed by their insureds.
But, what if Brian’s tort liability was NOT covered by liability insurance?
Even in the absence of any liability insurance coverage for Brian’s intentional torts, many states today also have statutes imposing legal responsibility upon the parents of minor children for the payment of all claims for tortious injuries committed by their minor children, at least up to certain limits. So, even if there is no liability insurance protection available for the plaintiff’s claim, she might still be able to recover at least some compensation for her injuries under such a statute.