Parental liability for a fight at school?

by Kay
(New Jersey)

My daughter was speaking to a bully, who was bullying her friend, and told the bully that the things he was saying were not nice and they were disrespectful. The bully then replied "You are weak white girl" (my daughter is African American). My daughter then got angry and punched the boy in the side/stomach.

A few moments later, the bully approached my daughter's friend (my daughter and her friend were not together) and proceeded to say vile things. My daughter's friend then got angry and punched the boy in the side or stomach.

The boy then was staggering and fell into the lockers and then fell face first on the floor, causing bruising and the loss of teeth (the boy also had braces). My daughter rushed to his aid and called for help.

The school assured me that they would pay for all claims. But I just received a letter requesting information from my homeowner's insurance policy. Can the parent sue us without pressing charges? What is going on with the school? Thanks for any information you can give.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Parental liability for a fight at school?":

Kay (New Jersey):

In most cases, parents are financially responsible for medical bills and related damages caused by their minor child. While you don't mention the age of the children involved, we will presume they are under 18 years of age.

Anyone has a right to send you a letter requesting information about your homeowners insurance policy. That doesn't necessarily mean you have to give it to them. You are under no legal obligation to give any of your insurance information to the school or to the boy's parents.

If the boy's parents want you to pay for their son's medical or dental bills, and you choose not to, the only recourse the parents will have is to sue you. They don't have to file a criminal assault case as a predicate to suing you.

Unfortunately, if they do sue you, you may be liable for the boy's injuries and related damages. In the State of New Jersey, vile comments are not sufficient legal grounds for a person to punch or otherwise assault another person.

The only time a person is entitled to assault another person is if that other person makes remarks which constitute an immediate and real threat to cause imminent serious bodily injury or death. In that case, the intended victim has the right to use whatever force is necessary to repel the imminent attack. This is not the case in your daughter's circumstances.

It is up to you. You can refuse to cooperate and see if the parents call your bluff and sue you, or turn over your homeowners insurance information and see if the insurance will cover the boy's injuries and treatment.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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