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What is parental liability for tort of a minor?  

Family members are not responsible for torts committed by other family members. Under Florida law, this rule generally precludes a parent from being held vicariously liable for the torts of a minor child. However, there are exceptions when the parent is negligent in controlling or supervising the minor. Parents may also be liable if the minor maliciously or willfully destroys or steals property. 

Need help regarding parental liability for tort of a minor? Schedule your consultation today with a top business litigation attorney.  

What legal issues typically arise related to parental liability for tort of a minor?  

The following disputes are among the most common to parental liability for the tort of minors:  

  • Comparative negligence: Florida follows a pure comparative negligence rule, meaning the court considers the plaintiff’s negligence in determining the plaintiff’s recovery. The court will reduce the damages if the plaintiff is partially at fault. 
  • Statute of Limitations: Florida has a four-year statute of limitation for negligence claims. 
  • Proof of Causation: The plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s negligence caused the plaintiff’s damages. 

Examples of parental liability for tort of a minor 

The Florida Supreme Court in Gissen v. Goodwill, 80 So. 2d 701, 703 (Fla. 1955), has articulated instances where a parent may be liable for negligently controlling or supervising a minor: 

  • The parent entrusts a minor with an instrumentality which, because of the minor’s lack of age, judgment, or experience, may become a source of danger to others. 
  • In the commission of a tortious act, a minor occupies the relationship of an employee or agent of its parents. 
  • The parent knows of the minor’s wrongdoing and consents to, directs, or sanctions it. 
  • The parent fails to exercise parental control over his minor child, although he knows or should have known that injury to another is a probable consequence. 

What are relevant laws related to parental liability for tort of a minor in Florida? 

Much of Florida law related to actions for parental liability for the tort of a minor comes from common law, or case law, based on the previous judicial decisions of Florida courts. Florida courts can decide how to interpret a contract, whether and when to enforce a contract, and whether to uphold certain provisions. 

Statutorily, Florida Statutes section 741.24 imposes liability on parents if a minor willfully or maliciously steals or destroys property. In addition, section 95.11 sets the statute of limitations for negligence claims in Florida, typically four years from the date of the injury. Finally, section 768.81 sets forth the rules for comparative negligence in Florida, which states that the plaintiff’s negligence will be considered in determining the plaintiff’s recovery. 

What is required to prove a case of parental liability for tort of a minor in Florida? 

  • Duty: The plaintiff must show that the parent had a duty of care to the plaintiff; 
  • Breach: The plaintiff must show that the parent failed to conform to the duty of care; 
  • Causation: The plaintiff must show that the parent’s breach of duty was the cause of the plaintiff’s harm or injury; and 
  • Damages: The plaintiff must show that they suffered actual harm due to the parent’s breach of duty. 

When a set of facts is appropriate to meet the requirements of parental liability for the tort of a minor, there are many paths a claimant may take. We are value-based attorneys at Jimerson Birr, which means we look at each action with our clients from the point of view of costs and benefits while reducing liability. Then, based on our client’s objectives, we chart a path forward to seek appropriate remedies, such as compensatory damages. 

What are common defenses to parental liability for tort of minor in Florida? 

The primary defenses to parental liability for the tort of a minor in Florida include:  

  • Assumption of risk: This defense argues that the plaintiff voluntarily assumed the risk of injury when they engaged in the activity that led to their injuries. 
  • Comparative negligence: This defense argues that the plaintiff and the defendant were both negligent, and the court should reduce the plaintiff’s damages in proportion to their own negligence. 
  • Statute of limitations: This defense argues that the plaintiff did not file their lawsuit within the time frame allowed by law, typically four years in Florida. 

One core strategy when defending against a parental liability claim in Florida is to focus on disproving the causation element. The defendant may disprove causation by providing evidence of a break in the causal chain between the minor’s act and the defendant’s damages through presenting witness testimony, documents, or other evidence to demonstrate that the parent acted reasonably. 

To see what defenses may be available for your unique situation, please contact our office to set up your initial consultation. 

Have more questions about a parental liability-related situation?  

Crucially, this overview of parental liability for tort of a minor does not begin to cover all the laws implicated by this issue or the factors that may compel the application of such laws. Every case is unique, and the laws can produce different outcomes depending on the individual circumstances. 

Jimerson Birr attorneys guide our clients to help make informed decisions while ensuring their rights are respected and protected. Our lawyers are highly trained and experienced in the nuances of the law, so they can accurately interpret statutes and case law and holistically prepare individuals or companies for their legal endeavors. Through this intense personal investment and advocacy, our lawyers will help resolve the issue’s complicated legal problems efficiently and effectively. 

Having a Jimerson Birr attorney on your side means securing a team of seasoned, multi-dimensional, cross-functional legal professionals. Whether it is a transaction, an operational issue, a regulatory challenge, or a contested legal predicament that may require court intervention, we remain a tireless advocate every step of the way. Being a value-added law firm means putting the client at the forefront of everything we do. We use our experience to help our clients navigate even the most complex problems and come out the other side triumphant. 

If you want to understand your case, the merits of your claim or defense, potential monetary awards, or the amount of exposure you face, you should speak with a qualified Jimerson Birr lawyer. Our experienced team of attorneys is here to help. Call Jimerson Birr at (904) 389-0050 or use the contact form to set up a consultation. 

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