Question: Can parents be strictly liable for actions of their child?
As a general rule, the common law does not hold a parent liable for the tortious acts of their minor children. However, Indiana law imposes liability upon a parent for the harm or damage caused by the knowing, intentional or reckless act of her minor child. This statute states that a “child” means an unemancipated person who is less than eighteen (18) years of age and that a parent is liable for not more than $3,000 in actual damages arising from harm to a person or damage to property knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly caused by the parent’s child if: (1) the parent has custody of the child; and (2) the child is living with the parent. The imposition of liability under this statute is in derogation of the common law.
Statutes in derogation of the common law must be strictly construed against limitations on a claimant’s right to bring suit. The courts presume that the legislature is aware of the common law and does not intend to make a change in the common law beyond its declaration either by express terms or by unmistakable implication. In cases of doubt, a statute is construed as not changing the common law. Judges examine and interpret the statute as a whole with the foremost objective to determine and give effect to the legislative intent.