Visitor Question

Are the parents liable for injuries their daughter caused to mine at school?

Submitted By: Jill (North Smithfield, Rhode Island)

Recently my daughter’s school had their State standardized testing, while on a “free” period where there wasn’t any testing, a teacher took a bunch of kids to an outdoor soccer field for a “pick-up” game of soccer.

While playing, another student, purposely slide tackled my daughter to get the ball away from her. She ended up with a swollen foot that she couldn’t put pressure on. The teacher had to transport her in her personal vehicle from the outdoor field back to the nurse’s office because she could not walk or put pressure on the foot.

I was called by the school nurse and was told that she rolled her ankle while playing and asked if I could pick her up from school, because the nurse didn’t want her to take the school bus, for not being able to put pressure on the foot. It wasn’t until I picked her up from school, that I learned another student hit her to get the ball away.

I had to take time out of work to pick her up and then my husband took time out of work to take her to the ER. She has a swollen foot, is on crutches and out of gym or private sports we pay for; for the next 2-3 weeks.

Is the other student’s parents liable for any of our medical costs, or time out of work?  We appreciate any information you can give us.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Jill,

In almost every state, including Rhode Island, parents face limited liability for negligent injuries caused by their children.

Rhode Island has a statute that provides as follows:

“The parent or parents of any unemancipated minor or minors, which minor or minors willfully or maliciously cause damage to any property or injury to any person, shall be jointly and severally liable with the minor or minors for the damage or injury to an amount not exceeding fifteen hundred dollars ($1,500) if the minor or minors would have been liable for the damage or injury if they had been adults; provided, nothing herein shall be construed to relieve the minor or minors from personal liability for the damage or injury. The liability herein provided for shall be in addition to and not in lieu of any other liability which may exist at law.”

As you can see from this Rhode Island law, parents are responsible for injuries caused by their children only if their child acted willfully or maliciously. “Willful” is a legal term of art that means a person intends to take a specific action, and may have intended the result as well. Here, you describe a situation where one child injures another during a schoolyard pickup soccer game.

While we don’t have all the facts, it could be difficult to establish that the slide tackle that injured your child was done willfully or maliciously. Also note that even if the parents can be held responsible, the statute limits their liability to $1,500.

Another potential basis of liability for the acts of children is negligent supervision by the teachers or other school personnel who were in charge of the children on the playground. The facts as presented in your question don’t seem to give rise to this claim, but it is at least something to consider if you have some indication that the children were not being properly supervised when the injury occurred.

We hope your child has made a full recovery and that this information helps you in deciding what to do going forward.

Learn more here: Parental Liability for Injuries

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney.

Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call 888-972-0892.

We wish you the best with your claim,

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