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Broadbent v. Broadbent - 184 Ariz. 74, 907 P.2d 43 (1995)

Rule:

Although a parent has the prerogative and the duty to exercise authority over his minor child, this prerogative must be exercised within reasonable limits. The "reasonable parent test" is approved, under which a parent's conduct is judged by whether that parent's conduct comported with that of a reasonable and prudent parent in a similar situation.

Facts:

Christopher and his mother, Laura J. Broadbent, went swimming at the family residence on April 13, 1984, their first day of swimming that year. Christopher was wearing "floaties," which are inflatable rings worn on the arms to assist a child in staying afloat. At the time of the accident, Christopher was two-and-a-half years old and did not know how to swim. Laura talked on the phone 5 to 10 minutes and could not see Christopher from where she was talking. As a result of this near drowning, Christopher suffered severe brain damage because of lack of oxygen. He has lost his motor skills and has no voluntary movement.

A complaint was filed on behalf of Christopher, as plaintiff, against his mother, alleging that she was negligent and caused his injuries. This action was brought to involve the Broadbents' umbrella insurance carrier in the issue of coverage. In her answer, Laura admitted that she was negligent in her supervision of Christopher, and she moved for summary judgment, arguing that the doctrine of parental immunity applied. All parties to both the declaratory judgment action and the negligence action filed a stipulation to consolidate the cases, and the trial court ordered the consolidation. The trial court granted Laura's motion for summary judgment and ruled that the parental immunity doctrine applied to the facts of this case.

Issue:

Was Christopher Broadbent's action against his mother for negligence barred by the doctrine of parental immunity?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The court vacated the lower court's decision and reversed the summary judgment. The court determined that defendant was not immune from liability under the doctrine of parental immunity, which it abolished, overruling Sandoval v. Sandoval, 178 Ariz. 11, 623 P.2d 800 (1981). The court ruled that a parent is not immune from liability for tortious conduct directed toward his child solely by reason of that relationship, that a parent is not liable for an act or omission that injured his child if the parent acted as a reasonable and prudent parent in the situation would, and that a trier of fact could find that defendant did not act as a reasonable and prudent parent when she left the minor unattended next to a swimming pool.

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