Question: Can parents be held civilly liable for wrongful actions of their child like murder?
The failure to control, like the other common law exceptions, imposes liability upon the parent for the torts of their minor child. The failure to control exception provides that a parent has a duty to exercise control over their minor child “when the parent knows or should know that injury to another is possible.” To be liable the parent must know that her child “had a habit of engaging in the particular act or course of conduct which led to the plaintiff’s injury.” The duty to control one’s child is as follows:
A parent is under a duty to exercise reasonable care so to control his minor child as to prevent it from intentionally harming others or from so conducting itself as to create an unreasonable risk of bodily harm to them, if the parent:
(a) knows or has reason to know that he has the ability to control his child, and
(b) knows or should know of the necessity and opportunity for exercising such control.
Imposition of a duty is limited to those circumstances where a reasonably foreseeable victim is injured by a reasonably foreseeable harm. A duty attaches when there has been a failure to control and the parent knows or should have known that injury to another was reasonably foreseeable. Specifically, the parent must know or should have known that the child had a habit of engaging in the particular act or course of conduct which led to the plaintiff’s injury.