Mesa AZ | Personal Injury attorney Brian T. Allen answers the following question:
Q: About a month ago, I was getting ready for bed when I heard noises out in my front yard. I grabbed a flashlight and went out the front door to check it out. I saw a group of teenagers throwing toilet paper all over my house and yard. I yelled for them to stop. When I yelled, they all started to run away. However, I had walked out into my yard far enough that there was a kid behind me, between the house and me. As he ran past me, he purposefully extended his arms and pushed me. He pushed me hard enough that I fell backwards and onto a fountain on display in the yard. I was hurt pretty bad, and now I have some hefty medical bills. I want to bring a personal injury claim against the kid who pushed me so that I can recoup my medical costs. However, he is only 13 years old. How can I get compensation from him for what he did to me?
A: Based on what you have described, your situation may fall under a special Arizona liability law: ARS § 12-661, Liabilities of parents or legal guardians for malicious or willful misconduct of minors. The law is divided into three parts. Let’s take a look at each and see how they might apply to your case. The first part of the law reads as follows:
Any act of malicious or willful misconduct of a minor which results in any injury to the person or property of another, to include theft or shoplifting, shall be imputed to the parents or legal guardian having custody or control of the minor whether or not such parents or guardian could have anticipated the misconduct for all purposes of civil damages, and such parents or guardian having custody or control shall be jointly and severally liable with such minor for any actual damages resulting from such malicious or willful misconduct.
There are three things to focus on within that section. First, the law only applies to acts of malicious or willful misconduct of a minor. This means the act has to be intentional (it cannot be an accident or due to mere negligence), and the actor has to be a person under the age of 18. Second, the law makes the minor’s parents liable for such acts, even if the parents had no idea the minor was going to do such a thing. This means that the law imposes strict liability. The intent and knowledge of the parents does not matter. Finally, the law makes parents jointly and severally liable for the minor’s acts. In other words, you can sue either parent or both together for your damages, but notice this is limited to actual damages. Actual damages include expenses such as medical bills but exclude something like “pain and suffering.” Let’s look at the next section of the law:
The joint and several liability of one or both parents or legal guardian having custody or control of a minor under this section shall not exceed ten thousand dollars for each tort of the minor. The liability imposed by this section is in addition to any liability otherwise imposed by law.
This section indicates that you cannot sue the parents for more than $10,000 in damages. It also indicates that this law imposes liability in addition to the liability that other laws might impose, should other laws apply. This means that you could recoup $10,000 in damages under the provisions of this law, and any other amount that might derive from the provisions of another state law. Here is the final section:
Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, nothing in this section limits the right of an insurer to exclude coverage for the acts of a minor imputed to his parent or legal guardian pursuant to this section.
This section indicates that insurance companies are free to deny coverage for the acts that this law discusses. For example, many insurance policies refuse to cover liability for injuries caused by intentional acts, rather than accidental acts. This section simply says that an insurance company may still apply such an exclusion to a claim arising from the act of a minor that causes injuries for which the parents will be liable.
Now that you know the law, you can see how it could apply to your case. The individual who pushed you was a minor, and his act appeared to be intentional. Per ARS § 12-661, you should be able to sue the minor’s parents for the injuries that he caused you. This will allow you the opportunity to recover your medical expenses, which the minor, by himself, could likely never pay. If you wish to discuss this important law further, please feel free to contact us.
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Intentional Misconduct of a Minor, or any other personal injury, please feel free to contact Brian T. Allen at 480.461.5335, log on to udallshumway.com, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.