Judge Allows Four-Year-Olds To Be Sued

The suit Justice Wooten allowed to go forward claims that in April 2009, Juliet Breitman and Jacob Kohn, both 4, raced their bicycles while their mothers supervised- Dana Breitman and Rachel Kohn. Place: A Manhattan, NY sidewalk/building on East 52nd Street.

During the race, they struck an 87-year-old woman, Claire Menagh, who walked in front of the building and, per the complaint, was “seriously and severely injured,” suffered a hip fracture that required surgery. She died three months later of unrelated causes.

Menagh’s estate sued the children and their mothers, claimed they acted negligently during the accident.

Breitman’s lawyer, James P. Tyrie, argued that the girl was not “engaged in an adult activity” at the time of the accident. “She was riding her bicycle with training wheels under the supervision of her mother,” and was too young to be held liable for negligence.

Tyrie also argued that Juliet should not be held liable because her mother was present.

“A parent’s presence alone does not give a reasonable child carte blanche to engage in risky behavior such as running across a street,” the judge wrote. He added that any “reasonably prudent child,” who presumably has been told to look both ways before crossing a street, should know that dashing out without looking is dangerous, with or without a parent there. The crucial factor is whether the parent encourages the risky behavior. If so, the child should not be held accountable.

The ruling by Justice Paul Wooten, of State Supreme Court in Manhattan, did not find that the girl was liable, but allowed a lawsuit brought against her, another boy and their parents to move forward.