I’ve written before about children’s right to be protected, but the issue of protection from lawsuits had never crossed my mind before. This changed when I saw that a judge has ruled that a 4-year-old who struck an old woman with her bike can, indeed, be sued. If she had been 3, she couldn’t be held negligent, but at 4 she clearly understands the consequences of her risk-taking behavior. Yeah, right.
I’m sure that a variety of lawyers (including the judge and the ones in this case), can come up with legalistic reasons for why this was the right decision. “Legalistic” is a euphamism for nonsense.
Human institutions being what they are, the rule of law sometimes means that we get legal outcomes that are nonsensical and unfair when applied to particular individual cases. That is unavoidable. The judge apparently felt he couldn’t make new law in this case. I’m generally a fan of judges being conservative about making new law (especially trial judges). Not being a lawyer and not having full knowledge of the case, I don’t know how I would rule. I’m glad I’m not the judge, who now has to take a lot of flack for the obvious absurdity of the outcome.
This reminds me of another 4-year-old done an even greater injustice. Several years ago when I lived in Chicago, there was a prominent case where the Illinois Supreme Court literally ripped a 4-year-old boy out of the arms loving parents, the only parents he had ever known, in favor of an adoptive father who seemed kind of creepy and devoid of the true paternal instincts that would have prevented him from doing this type of abuse to a child (obviously, Solomon was not a judge in this case). The court, which was divided on the issue, claimed that they didn’t have the ability, under law, to weigh the interests of the child in this case. I wonder how “Baby Richard” is doing these days. I think he might have been moved out of the country. But, regardless, it was still state-sanctioned abuse.
These are cases that are very frustrating for those who want justice for children and who want, at the same time, to preserve the rule of law. What I really wish is that we had more proactive effort to modify ridiculous legal standards before they chew up people’s lives. I know the gears of justice grind slowly, but you’d think that since quite a few lawyers and legal experts knew about this standard in the law, that they would have taken it upon themselves to advocate for more nuanced, reasonable standards to be enacted, perhaps by statute.
I guess that since they can’t bill for those hours, the absurdity persists.