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Statutory enactments demonstrate that the legislature has put its mind to the deprivations of which plaintiff children are alleged to be victims and has attempted to remedy such situations by enacting a vast panoply of procedures, both civil and criminal, to insure that children receive proper nurturing, support and physical care. It has never undertaken to establish, however, a cause of action for damages for any emotional injury to the child which may have been caused by a parent's refusal to provide these services.
Plaintiff minor children, through their guardian, brought actions against their mothers for emotional and psychological injury caused by failure of defendant-mothers to perform their parental duties to plaintiffs. The lower courts dismissed plaintiffs’ actions and the present appeal followed.
Could the defendant mothers be held liable for damages for their failure to perform parental duties to the plaintiffs?
The dismissal of plaintiffs' actions for injuries caused by defendants' failure to perform parental duties was affirmed. The court stated that although Oregon had extensive statutory provisions dealing with the necessity of providing parental nurture, support, and physical care, it provided no civil cause of action for injuries caused by the parental failure to do so. The court held that although it had the ability to establish such a tort based on the legislature's extensive criminal and regulatory statutes of the area of child/parent relationships, it declined to do so. The court stated that it would not have been wise or judicious to vindicate the state policy of requiring parental care by tort action for damages by children against their mothers for failure to provide it. The creation of such a tort might have interfered with other legislative policy concerns, such as reuniting natural families.