A parent is not liable for the torts committed by his or her child merely because of the parent-child relationship. However, when a child has a known propensity to commit a potentially harmful act, the parent has a duty to use reasonable care to prevent the child from causing such harm if the parent knows or should know of the propensity and has the ability and opportunity to control the child.
The tortfeasor was at his home when a group of youths approached the home in a vehicle. At that time, tortfeasoer was actually living in a different neighborhood with a relative and attending a different high school in the hope of avoiding gang-related problems, and he had sought and received permission from his father to come to their house that day to retrieve some clothing. The youths began shooting at the tortfeasor's home. The tortfeasor retrieved his parent's gun from beneath their mattress and fired four shots towards the car. During the exchange of gunfire, one of the bullets struck plaintiff victim in the abdomen. The victim lived next door to the tortfeasor. Plaintiff filed an action to recover damages for battery. The victim also brought a claim against defendants, alleged tortfeasor's parents, for negligent maintenance of a weapon and negligent supervision. The District Court entered a judgment in favor of the alleged tortfeasor and his parents. On appeal, the court affirmed the judgment of the trial court in part and reversed the judgment in part. The court found that the trial court properly entered judgment in favor of the tortfeasor's parents on the victim's claims for negligent maintenance of a weapon and negligent supervision.
Did the trial court err in entering judgment for the defendant parents on the claim of negligent supervision?
The trial court found no evidence that the tortfeasor had been a member of a gang, that he had ever been arrested prior to the shooting incident, or that he otherwise had any history of violent or improper behavior. The trial court also determined that allowing their son to return to their home unsupervised during the afternoon of the shooting to pick up clothing "was not a breach of [the parents'] duty of supervision that any reasonable person would recognize."