Effin’ Lawyers/Judges – Today’s Sign of the Apocalypse

What the fuck is wrong with people?  Seriously.  I’ve preached about personal responsibility a lot on this blog  – I’m a firm believer in it – but there are limits: like saying a 4 year old can be sued for negligence for running into an old lady while riding a bike with training wheels. 
“Citing cases dating back as far as 1928, a judge has ruled that a young girl accused of running down an elderly woman while racing a bicycle with training wheels on a Manhattan sidewalk two years ago can be sued for negligence. 
The ruling by the judge, Justice Paul Wooten of State Supreme Court in Manhattan, did not find that the girl was liable, but merely permitted a lawsuit brought against her, another boy and their parents to move forward.” 
Look – sue the parents – fine – THEY are responsible for the actions of their four year old.  But a four year old girl?   This one is too friggin’ crazy not to keep reading:
“The suit that Justice Wooten allowed to proceed claims that in April 2009, Juliet Breitman and Jacob Kohn, who were both 4, were racing their bicycles, under the supervision of their mothers, Dana Breitman and Rachel Kohn, on the sidewalk of a building on East 52nd Street. At some point in the race, they struck an 87-year-old woman named Claire Menagh, who was walking in front of the building and, according to the complaint, was “seriously and severely injured,” suffering a hip fracture that required surgery. She died three weeks later.”
Ok – it sucks that this old lady got hurt and died.  And no, I’m not going to argue that she should have been responsible enough to get out of the way – she was on the sidewalk.   The article continues with a reasonably sensible 2 paragraphs:
“Her estate sued the children and their mothers, claiming they had acted negligently during the accident. In a response, Juliet’s lawyer, James P. Tyrie, argued that the girl was not “engaged in an adult activity” at the time of the accident — “She was riding her bicycle with training wheels under the supervision of her mother” — and was too young to be held liable for negligence. 
In legal papers, Mr. Tyrie added, “Courts have held that an infant under the age of 4 is conclusively presumed to be incapable of negligence.” (Rachel and Jacob Kohn did not seek to dismiss the case against them.)”
Right – a 4 year old can’t be negligent… But wait – this girl was four AND THREE QUARTERS!
“But Justice Wooten declined to stretch that rule to children over 4. On Oct. 1, he rejected a motion to dismiss the case because of Juliet’s age, noting that she was three months shy of turning 5 when Ms. Menagh was struck, and thus old enough to be sued. 
Mr. Tyrie “correctly notes that infants under the age of 4 are conclusively presumed incapable of negligence,” Justice Wooten wrote in his decision, referring to the 1928 case. “Juliet Breitman, however, was over the age of 4 at the time of the subject incident. For infants above the age of 4, there is no bright-line rule.” 
Hey Justice Wooten – there’s also no bright-line rule that says when kids learn morality, responsibility and right and wrong.  Holy cow – I am on BAJUNGI TILT.

It gets even crazier:
““A parent’s presence alone does not give a reasonable child carte blanche to engage in risky behavior such as running across a street,” the judge wrote. He added that any “reasonably prudent child,” who presumably has been told to look both ways before crossing a street, should know that dashing out without looking is dangerous, with or without a parent there. The crucial factor is whether the parent encourages the risky behavior; if so, the child should not be held accountable.”
Wait – so if I’m driving down the street, and a 5 year old runs out in front of me and I run him over – it’s his fault for negligence, right?  He should know that he has to look both ways, right?  He has presumably been told that already, right?  (END SARCASM!)  What planet does this judge live on where 5 year olds don’t “dash out into the street” because they know better?  Guess what – they DO dash out into the street even though they MAY know better because they are only 5 years old and they are just thinking about getting their ball back!

Isn’t there a saying “Behind every bouncing ball is a running child?”  Note how it’s not “Behind every bouncing ball is a running child under the age of 4, because children over the age of 4 are reasonably prudent and should know better.”

Maybe I’m overreacting.  I don’t have kids.  Why don’t some of my readers out there tell me if their 4 3/4 year olds have a sense of morally righteous behavior and know never to engage in any activity that might cause harm to themselves or others.
This is not a guiltless crime, obviously, the parents are responsible for their children’s actions.  Justice Wooten is living in his own world of crazy that’s so out of touch with reality, it makes me weep for the future of our judicial system.

Edit:  in any case, this seems like the perfect time to revisit an old classic:  Punitive Damages!

-KD

ps – I really really hesitate to bring it up because I really don’t want to get into a tangent in the comments, but one of the things that’s bothering me most about this case is that so much of our recent financial crisis has resulted in people trying to absolve grown adults of their responsibilities (ie, in understanding documents that they sign which tell them how much they’ll have to pay on their mortgage) – and now we’re trying to assign responsibilities to FOUR YEAR OLDS?  Come on.

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