Are children held to the same standard of care as adults?

No, children are held to the standard of care of a reasonable person their age. The rule provided by Restatement of Torts (2d) § 283A is: "If the actor is a child, the standard of conduct to which he must conform to avoid being negligent is that of a reasonable person of like age, intelligence, and experience under the like circumstances."

Children can be held to an adult standard of care if they are engaging in an adult activity, such as operating a motor vehicle or flying an airplane.

In many states children under seven years old are not capable of negligence or cannot be sued for negligence. However, this is not uniform in all states. Consult your state's judicial decisions and/or statutes to determine at what age a child and his parents can be sued for the negligent actions of a young child.

What is negligence per se?

Negligence per se is a doctrine that provides that if a person is negligent while violating a related law or regulation, the person is negligent, or a presumption is created that the person is negligent. Negligence per se allows a plaintiff to prove the breach of duty element in a negligence case.

For example, let's say that there is a car accident between car A and car B. A sues B for negligence. A is able to prove that B was driving 20 miles over the speed limit. The fact that B exceeded the speeding law—a safety regulation—probably establishes that B was negligent per se.

What is res ipsa loquitur?

This Latin term literally means "the thing speaks for itself." In legal parlance, it refers to a doctrine that helps a plaintiff show that a defendant was negligent when the injury-causing instrument was under the control of the defendant and it is probable that the negligence resulted from the defendant. As a Connecticut court wrote, "res ipsa loquitur is a method to prove negligence as opposed to being a separate tort in and of itself."

Res ipsa loquitur applies when the rational explanation for the plaintiff's injuries was because of the defendant's negligence. The doctrine is an exception to the general rule that negligence cannot be presumed from the mere occurrence of an accident and injury. A Nebraska appeals court applied the doctrine when a property owner sued after a high voltage line maintained by a local power district fell onto their property and started a fire. The court noted that "powerlines do not normally fall without fault on behalf of the company that maintains them and that res ipsa loquitur is applied in the absence of a substantial, significant, or probable explanation." (See LegalSpeak, p. 316).

What are the two types of causation in tort cases?

The two types of causation are actual or factual causation and proximate or legal causation. Actual cause refers to whether the defendant's conduct was the actual, factual cause of the plaintiff's harm. Take the example of a man with a sore leg who enters a department store and slips on the slick floor. The man claims that he injured his leg in his fall. However, the store may claim that his leg was injured already and the fall did not add to his condition at all.

The second type of causation is legal or proximate cause. This type of causation limits a defendant's liability to the reasonably foreseeable injuries caused by his tortuous conduct. In other words, let's say a man falls in the department store. The man suffers a knee injury and has to be transported by an ambulance to a local hospital. However, a careless driver then pulls out in front of the ambulance driver and causes a bad accident that kills the man who is a passenger-patient in the ambulance. It is not reasonably foreseeable that a wet floor would lead to a patron being killed in an ambulance.

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