From Columbine to Kazaa: Parental Liability in a New World

In light of the recent high-profile violent acts committed by teenagers, there has been an increased interest in strengthening parental liability statutes. Ultimately, though, parental liability statues have proven to be ineffective. If parental liability statues are to be more effective, there must be a correlation between parenting and the child’s tortious conduct. If this relationship is absent, culpability is missing and the threat of civil or criminal liability imposed by these parental liability statutes cannot compel parents to better monitor their children’s activities.The sole cause of child delinquency is not bad parenting. Numerous studies have concluded that even though parenting may be one factor that increases the likelihood that the child will commit a delinquent act, there are other contributing factors, including socioeconomic status, biological factors, and the media. Further, there is no exact science to parenting and no exact way of anticipating how the child will react in every situation. Because no direct relationship exists between a parent’s parenting and her child’s malfeasance, a parent is not culpable and should not be held liable for every bad act of her child. Therefore, even though parental liability laws may help to ensure that the injured party is fully compensated, these statutes should not be used to hold parents liable for their child’s tortious conduct.

The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.