Monday, June 18, 2012
Help Me Howard: Can You Sue an 8-year-old?
An 8-year-old riding her bike scratches a neighbor's car. You naturally assume you can't expect a young child to pay for the damage, so you have to go after the parents. But it turns out legally, you can sue an 8-year-old, as we find out in tonight's Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- The Lillys are an active family: sometimes playing basketball in their cul-de-sac, sometimes biking.
Woman: "You like to ride a bike?"
Jennifer Lilly, 8 Years Old: "Yes."
Alan Lilly, Lawsuit Over 8-Year-Old: "She rides her scooters, she rides her skates, anything she can get her hands on she rides."
And it's one of Jennifer's bike rides down the sidewalk that brought out Help Me Howard.
Alan Lilly, Lawsuit Over 8-Year-Old: "So my daughter came around the bend there. She obviously didn't see the car until she came right on it, and she came in contact with the car and caused a car scratch on the driver's side door."
Jennifer was on her bike riding by herself when she hit a car in a driveway. This is the picture from that day that shows the car blocking the sidewalk and the driveway.
So what did this 8-year-old do?
Jennifer Lilly, 8 Years Old: "I went and I told the neighbors."
That's right. The 8-year-old didn't get back on her bike and ride away. Without being told, she walked to the front door.
Alan Lilly, Lawsuit Over 8-Year-Old: "She went up to the door and knocked on the door and told the neighbor."
Jennifer did the right thing on her own, because that's what Alan had taught her.
Alan Lilly, Lawsuit Over 8-Year-Old: "Be honest, be responsible for their actions. If they do something wrong, own up to it."
The neighbor came out, saw the scratch, and the police were called.
Alan Lilly, Lawsuit Over 8-Year-Old: "They put in the police report that my daughter was primarily responsible, because she was operating a vehicle."
The police blamed the 8-year-old for causing the $200 scratch. The officer did not blame the neighbor for blocking the sidewalk.
Alan thought his daughter and the car's owner were both to blame for the $200 scratch, and he offered a compromise.
Alan Lilly, Lawsuit Over 8-Year-Old: "I was willing to pay for half of that."
The neighbor wanted him to pay for 80 percent. When Alan said no, she filed a lawsuit.
Alan Lilly, Lawsuit Over 8-Year-Old: "She's taking action against my daughter, and it's unfortunate that you're going to sue an 8-year-old. That's what you're basically doing."
Technically, the lawsuit is against Alan, but in reality, the neighbor is suing over an 8-year-old scratching a car she parked on the sidewalk.
An 8-year-old that Alan is proud of.
Alan Lilly, Lawsuit Over 8-Year-Old: "She could have easily walked away and nobody would have ever known. But then again, I don't teach my kids that, so she did the right thing."
Well Howard, a car is blocking the sidewalk. The 8-year-old scratches it. Who is to blame?
Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: "The car owner cannot sue the parents of the 8-year-old, because their child has no history of doing this and therefore, the parents were not on notice and are not responsible. As for the car owner, she blocked the sidewalk, which you cannot do in this community or most communities. Therefore, she shares some of the responsibility for the scratch, or maybe even all of it."
Brittany Glaid, Car Scratched by 8-Year-Old: "Jennifer, the little girl, came up to my door."
We then talked to the neighbor who got her car scratched and filed the lawsuit.
Brittany Glaid, Car Scratched by 8-Year-Old: "I don't know why he is being so difficult about it, being that she was unsupervised."
Brittany Glaid doesn't think she did anything wrong by parking on the sidewalk.
Brittany Glaid, Car Scratched by 8-Year-Old: "No, this is private property. We are in a private, gated community."
Brittany says she turned down Alan's offer to pay for half the damage. She wanted him to pay 80 percent, and she says she had to sue, because he refused to accept her certified letter requesting the money.
Brittany Glaid, Car Scratched by 8-Year-Old: "Well, I don't think it's right to say I'm suing an 8-year-old. It's not right to say. I'm not. I'm suing the father of the 8-year-old for the damages done by his 8-year-old."
Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: "Actually, the only way Brittany can win is to drop the lawsuit against the father and sue the 8-year-old. In Florida, if the child is 6 or older, you can sue them, but the courts are very reluctant to hold children responsible for acts that all children do."
Brittany thinks she is right. The police officer agreed with her.
Alan thinks he is right. Howard agrees with him.
So let's let an 8-year-old have the last word.
Jennifer Lilly, 8 Years Old: "It shouldn't be right that she is suing an 8-year-old."
Patrick Fraser: "I had no idea you could sue an 8-year-old. The things you learn doing Help Me Howard. And is Brittany going to drop her lawsuit against the father and sue Jennifer? She said she really didn't want to sue a child and would think about it. In reality, it may be a waste of her time, because if she wins, a child doesn't have assets or wages you can garnish."
Pedaled into a problem that's blocking your life? Get off the side and walk to us. We will do more than scratch the surface for a solution, because it's not a minor issue if it's your issue.
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