Legal Remedies Available To Minors

What remedies are available for injuries by a minor?

Sadly, more and more violent crimes are committed by juveniles. However, unlike adults, when a juvenile 14 years or younger commits what appears to be an intentional act, the parents' homeowner's insurance may provide coverage for the harm their child causes.

In USAA v. DeValencia, 190 Ariz. 436, 949 P.2nd 525 (App. 1997), the court was faced with a situation where a 14-year-old child sexually molested another child. Had an adult done this, it would be conclusively presumed that the perpetrator intended to injure the child. Homeowners' insurance insures members of a household who injure someone, whether the act occurs at the residence or elsewhere. However, homeowners' insurance does not cover injuries that are caused intentionally. In the DeValencia case, because of the age of the perpetrator the court concluded that there was a question as to whether the 14-year-old child really understood his actions and whether he subjectively intended to injure the victim. Consequently, homeowner's insurance might be required to provide coverage for acts of a child that would not be covered if done by an adult.

Parents are not automatically responsible for the actions of their child except under limited circumstances. Arizona Revised Statute §12-661 states that:

A. 'Any act of malicious or willful misconduct of a minor which results in any injury to the person or property of another, to include theft or shoplifting, shall be imputed to the parents or legal guardian having custody or control of the minor whether or not such parents or guardian could have anticipated the misconduct for all purposes of civil damages, and such parent or guardian having custody or control shall be jointly and severally liable with such minor for the actual damages resulting from such malicious or willful misconduct.'

According to Section B of the same statute, the parents are liable in an amount not to exceed $10,000 for each tort of the minor. Under the statute, parents are automatically liable for intentional offenses that their children commit. However, it may be difficult to collect from the parents if they do not have the money to pay such a judgment.

A parent may also be liable because of their own negligence. If a parent is negligent by failing to supervise a child or by providing the child access to a gun, the parent may be liable up to any amount that the jury deems appropriate. In addition, there may be homeowner's insurance coverage for the parents' negligence.

Finally, when a child negligently operates a motor vehicle provided by his or her family and injures someone, the parents of the child are liable for their child's negligent driving under the "Family Purpose Doctrine."

If your minor child has been involved in, or was seriously injured in, the commission of a crime or juvenile crime in Southern Arizona, contact Southern Arizona Crime Victim Attorneys in Tucson to discuss a legal remedy. Your initial consultation is free. The number to call is 520-628-8878. Our lawyers respond promptly to all email messages.