Hiring a neighbor’s teenager to look after kids is a familiar way for parents to free up an evening and kids to earn some spending money. Assuming the babysitter is responsible and able to address the typical kinds of problems that can come up—a scrape or a bruise—there’s probably little risk involved in these informal arrangements. But if a child is seriously injured while being watched by a minor, questions can come up about how legal liability applies in these situations. In thinking about how a minor’s liability for injuries to a child while babysitting it’s helpful to separate potential scenarios into two categories: negligence and willful acts of misconduct.
Minors are often shielded from liability for ordinary negligence
Negligence is the most common cause of action in personal injury lawsuits, in part because it offers relatively low requirements for attaching liability to the defendant. In a negligence case the defendant owed the plaintiff (or the plaintiff’s child) a duty of care, breached that duty of care, and as a consequence the plaintiff was injured (in legal terms, the plaintiff suffered damages). By accepting responsibility for a child, especially for pay, the babysitter undoubtedly has a duty to provide for the safety of the child.
There are several problems with trying to pursue a negligence action against a minor. The first is that the minor probably doesn’t have much in the way of financial resources to pay a judgment, so even a successful outcome won’t help pay for an injured child’s medical bills. A second problem is that minors are generally given greater leeway to make mistakes, and a minor may present a sympathetic case in the courtroom.
That leaves the possibility of suing the babysitter’s parents. But in Nevada a minor’s parents normally can’t be sued for the ordinary negligence or even recklessness of their minor children except in cases where the minor negligently causes an injury using a firearm. Rocky Mountain Produce Trucking Co. v. Johnson, 78 Nev. 44, 51-52 (1962), NRS 41.472.
Willful misconduct by a babysitter
The legal analysis changes if a babysitter deliberately acts wrongfully and as a consequence hurts a child. Parents of a minor are jointly and severally liable for damages caused by the minor’s acts of willful misconduct, up to $10,000 per act. NRS 41.470. What might constitute willful misconduct? Here are some examples:
- Deliberately harming the child (hitting, choking, sexual assault).
- Using illegal drugs that cause the babysitter to not be aware of risks to the child.
- Intentionally placing the child in harm’s way as a stunt or joke.
The damages limitation placed upon actions for a minor’s willful misconduct forces a plaintiff to get creative when analyzing the facts of the child’s injury. Given the right set of facts the babysitter may have committed multiple separate acts of willful misconduct, allowing for the $10,000 cap to be multiplied according to the number of acts. The challenge is often that the only reliable witness to the wrongful acts is the babysitter. A skilled attorney can explore these issues.
GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm
For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped injured clients in the Las Vegas area recover compensation. If you have questions about your legal options to respond to a child’s injury caused by a babysitter, call us today for a free attorney consultation. Reach us at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.