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Civil Liability of Children

Children Issues

In Ohio a "minor" is a person who is under the age of 18. When a minor breaks the law or causes damage or injury to another person, an animal or property, their parents may bear the liability. Many state statutes authorize courts to hold parents financially responsible for the damages caused by their minor children. Some states may even hold parents criminally liable for failing to supervise a child whom they know to be delinquent.

In general, individuals who are injured or harmed by a minor may be able to file suit against both the minor and the minor's parents. The law surrounding liability of children is complex and susceptible to many arguments that can minimize a parent's exposure, and the liability of the child. Legal representation may minimize the financial exposure to the parent and the child. At the Law Offices of Jacob Rzepka we stand ready to assist you in navigating the legal process and avoiding unnecessary cost or liability.

Parental Liability for Minors

In general, minors are liable for their misdeeds. However, when a minor
acts intentionally or negligently in a manner that causes harm to another,
it is difficult to collect damages from the minor. In such a situation, the
minor's parents may also be held liable for their child's acts and/or ordered to pay for them. A "parent" can be anyone exercising parental authority over the child, but typically refers to the "custodial" parent. Although they vary widely by state, most parental liability laws target intentional, malicious or reckless behavior and exclude pure accidents. Parental liability stems from the custodial parents' obligation to
supervise and educate their children.

Types of Acts by Minors for Which Parents May be Liable

Many states have enacted laws which hold custodial parents responsible for delinquent acts of their minor children including:

  • Vandalism
  • Theft and shoplifting
  • Automobile accidents
  • Fights and assaults
  • File sharing (e.g., music industry copyright cases)


Theories of Parental Liability

In general, the liability of parents for the acts of their minor children is based on their legal relationship. A parent may thus be considered to be "vicariously liable" for the acts of their children and the law may hold them responsible for the damages their child causes. Parental liability may be found in some of the following circumstances:

  • The parent has knowledge of prior misconduct
  • The parent signed the child's drivers' license application or the child drives the parents' car with permission
  • The child is guilty of willful misconduct
  • The child was given access to firearms
  • The child defaces another's property
  • The child is convicted of a crime and ordered to pay restitution


Amount of Parental Liability


State statutes holding parents liable for damages caused by their minorchildren vary widely on the type of delinquent act committed and the amount parents must pay. Some states like Ohio cap the amount of damages for which parents are liable to pay. At the Law offices of Jacob Rzepka we can help yopu minimize any financial exposure caused by your minoir child.

Insurance Coverage


Although some homeowner's insurance policies may cover the costs of legal fees and pay for some claims of damage resulting from a minor child's acts, such coverage is usually limited. Policies and exclusions vary by state, but typically, most homeowners insurance will cover the acts of children under a certain age (such as 11, 12 or 13) and only for acts of negligence, not intentional acts. In some cases, depending on the insurer, additional "policy riders" might be available for purchase after a child reaches a
certain age in order to extend the coverage. Generally, however, polices often exclude illegal or willful and malicious acts and thus may, for example, exclude property damages caused by burglary committed by a
minor. In such a case, the parents may be required to pay the entire amount or the
statutory cap. It is important that you obtain legal representation to argue the appropriate legal cause to minimize paretal liability.

Escaping Liability

Where it is recognized, parental liability is generally difficult to escape. In some instances, however, parents may be able to show that they should not be liable for the damages caused by their minor children.

At the law offices of Jacob Rzepka we may be able to assist parents in avoiding liab escape liability where they can sufficiently demonstrate:

  • That the minor's act was not willful and malicious
  • The minor has been "emancipated" (treated as an adult under the eyes of the law)
  • The parent was not the "custodial" parent of the minor at the time
  • The minor was institutionalized


Calling our office today can save you thousands tomorrow !

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Law offices Jacob M. Rzepka 5035 Mayfield Rd. Lyndhurst, Ohio 44236 (216)-923-1309
Hours By Appointment - Evening and Weekend Appointment Available
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