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Parents Liability For Negligent Entrustment to a Minor Child


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Car accident lawsuits are complicated. They often involve several parties and insurance companies, along with several issues and claims. In a recent Missouri car accident case, the court was forced to sort out liability issues dealing with an accident caused by a four-year-old child.

The main issue dealt with the parent's liability. The parent involved left her four-year-old daughter alone in the car with the engine on. The child shifted the car out of park, causing the car to move. The car rolled, gaining speed, and eventually collided into an SUV, causing damage to the SUV and injuries to its owner.

This case presented several issues questioning the parent's liability. The main issue was whether the parent could be held liable for negligently supervising her minor child. The SUV owner alleged the car was a dangerous instrument and a four-year-old child was too immature and incompetent to be entrusted with a motor vehicle.

Under Missouri Law, parents will be held liable for their minor children in five instances:

(1) Where the relationship of master and servant exists and the child is acting within the scope of his authority accorded by the parent;

(2) Where a parent is negligent in entrusting to the child an instrument which, because of its nature, use, and purpose, is so dangerous as to constitute, in the hands of the child, an unreasonable risk to others;

(3) Where a parent is negligent in entrusting to the child an instrumentality which, though not necessarily a dangerous thing of itself, is likely to be put to a dangerous use because of the known propensities of the child;

(4) Where the parent's negligence consists entirely of his failure reasonably to restrain the child from vicious conduct imperiling others, when the parent has knowledge of the child's propensity towards such conduct; and

(5) Where the parent participates in the child's tortious act by consenting to it or by ratifying it later and accepting the fruits.

Although a car is not regularly deemed a dangerous instrument, under the second element above, this car could be seen to pose an unreasonable dangerous risk to others in the hands of a child. Meaning, the parent could likely be found liable for the resulting injuries.

This case also involved claims of negligence which included:

(1)The parent failed to uphold a duty of safety to others; and
(2)The vehicle did not have two sets of adequate, working brakes as required by law.

The above described case also involved a claim for products liability for defective brakes.
The court ultimately decided in Summary Judgment Motions that the negligence and product liability claims did not involve a dispute that the court could resolve.

The court found the only issue to try was the negligent supervision claim, establishing whether or not the parent should be held responsible for the resulting injuries and damages from entrusting her child with a instrument that could be deemed dangerous.

This claim has not yet been tried, but cases involving children/parental liability issues are becoming more frequent. Recent liability issues dealing with children in car accidents are commonly linked to parenting efforts. Parents aiming to discipline their children while driving often get distracted and their attention shifts from the road to the kids, causing accidents.

John Page is a senior partner at Page || Cagle, a Missouri personal injury law firm that handles serious injury and death cases related to car and truck accidents. John can be reached 24 hours a day by calling 314.322.8515 or 800.500.4658. Via email at The firm has created numerous informative websites for injury victims. The sites include and The websites are packed with useful information related to all types of motor vehicle crashes.


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