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After a careful review of the arguments for and against the parental-immunity rule in negligence cases, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin is of the opinion that it ought to be abrogated except in these two situations: (1) where the alleged negligent act involves an exercise of parental authority over the child; and (2) where the alleged negligent act involves an exercise of ordinary parental discretion with respect to the provision of food, clothing, housing, medical and dental services, and other care. Accordingly, the rule is abolished in personal injury actions subject to these noted exceptions.
Plaintiff Daniel G. Goller, a minor, sustained injuries while riding on a farm tractor owned and operated by defendant White. At the time of the accident, plaintiff was residing with White as a foster child. The complaint alleged that White was negligent in permitting the minor to ride on the drawbar of the tractor and in failing to warn him that several bolts protruded from one of the wheels. The complaint also alleged that Farmers Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (hereinafter “Farmers Mutual”) had issued a policy of liability insurance to White which extended coverage to plaintiff at the time of the accident. Farmers Mutual denied coverage with respect to plaintiff’s cause of action. The trial court found that the policy in question afforded no coverage to the plaintiff and consequently dismissed the complaint as against Farmers Mutual. Defendant White then moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted. Plaintiff appealed from both judgments.
The court affirmed the decision of the trial court on the first issue because the plaintiff was a foster child properly placed in the defendant’s home at all times relevant to the plaintiff’s action and because the policy language precluded coverage for the minor child. The court, however, reversed the decision of the trial court that the defendant stood in loco parentis to the minor child, and, therefore, that the defendant was not liable in negligence to the plaintiff minor child. The court found that the parental-immunity rule in negligence cases was to be abrogated except in these two situations, namely, where the alleged negligent act involved an exercise of parental authority over the child and where the alleged negligent act involved an exercise of ordinary parental discretion with respect to the provision of food, clothing, housing, medical and dental services, and other care.