Children and minors can cause serious personal injury to others through negligence or deliberate acts. When an injured person faces high medical costs, lost earning potential, or emotional trauma, a lawsuit may be necessary to recover compensation. Under Nevada law, parents and legal guardians of minors bear responsibility for their child’s wrongful act, with important limitations.
Parents are liable for the willful misconduct of their children
Nevada imposes joint and several liability upon the parents or a guardian having custody or control of a minor for damages caused by the minor’s acts of willful misconduct. NRS 41.470. The imputation of liability is “for all purposes of civil damages,” but the statute provides that the responsible adults’ liability cannot exceed $10,000 for each act by a minor. Licensed operators of foster homes are not responsible for the wrongful acts of children under their care unless they actively contribute to the act in question. NRS 424.085.
“Joint and several liability” means that each parent or guardian is individually responsible for the damages caused by the minor’s willful acts. The idea behind joint and several liability is that the injured plaintiff needn’t figure out which adult was more responsible for the child at the time of the injury. Instead, the parents or guardians must sort out amongst themselves who is going to pay the damages.
Notice what’s missing from NRS 41.470: liability for a minor’s negligence. In cases where a child causes an injury while behaving carelessly or clumsily, parents may not be liable. The Nevada Supreme Court has held that “willful misconduct” is something more than mere ordinary negligence or even recklessness. It requires an intent to do harm. Rocky Mountain Produce Trucking Co. v. Johnson, 78 Nev. 44, 51-52 (1962). The court in Roddick v. Plank, 608 F. Supp. 229 (D. Nev. 1985), held that NRS 41.470 did not impose liability upon the parent of a child who injured the plaintiff while negligently riding her bicycle.
Special rules for minors and firearms
Under NRS 41.472, a parent, guardian, or other legally responsible person bears joint and several liability with the minor for injuries caused by the negligence or willful misconduct of a minor while using a firearm in certain circumstances. A responsible adult will be liable if he or she permitted the minor to use or possess a firearm and knew that the minor had previously been convicted of a crime or adjudicated delinquent, or had a propensity to commit violent acts, or if the adult knew that the minor intended to use the firearm for unlawful purposes.
Unlike NRS 41.470, NRS 41.472 does not limit the potential damages available to injured plaintiffs in these cases. But like NRS 41.470, the firearms rule carries important limitations. If the plaintiff cannot establish that the minor was not known to be a delinquent, have violent tendencies, or unlawful intent, liability will not stick. A parent therefore might not be liable under this statute if she allows an apparently responsible child to use a gun for target practice and the child instead uses the gun to take pot shots at passing cars, although other theories of negligence or criminal wrongdoing may apply in such cases.
GGRM can help sort out injuries caused by minors
For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped injured clients in the Las Vegas area recover the compensation they deserve. If you have questions about your legal options after being injured by a minor, our attorneys can answer them. For a free attorney consultation call us today at 702-388-4476 or send us a request on our contact page.