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Broadwell by Broadwell v. Holmes - 871 S.W.2d 471 (Tenn. 1994)


Parental immunity is limited to conduct that constitutes the exercise of parental authority, the performance of parental supervision, and the provision of parental care and custody.


Mindy Elaine Broadwell, age 8, and Justin L. Broadwell, age 6, were passengers in a pickup truck driven by defendant, their mother, when the vehicle was involved in an accident. The accident resulted to Justin’s injury and Mindy’s death. The present suit, which was brought by the non-custodial father as next friend and next kin, alleged negligence by the custodial mother. The trial court found that the complaint did not state a cause of action based on parental immunity, which was upheld by the appellate court. Plaintiffs appealed.


Can the mother be held liable for her alleged negligence, which resulted to the death of her daughter and injury to her son?




The Court first noted that common law parental community exempted parents from liability, expressly or implicitly, for conduct, whether acts or omissions, incident to the exercise of parental authority and supervision. However, the Court held that the operation of an automobile under the circumstances of the case at hand was not protected conduct. Moreover, the Court averred that a parent’s conduct injuring a child may be outside the scope of the parent-child relationship. As such, the Court reversed the decisions of the lower courts and remanded the case for further proceedings.

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