Friday, October 29, 2010

Is suing four year olds for negligence a lucrative business model?

This is a question we really need to ask ourselves as a nation. How much are four year olds worth? I’m assuming millions in terms of potential future earning power. Or you could simply just take away their toys and go “nah-nah-nah” to their faces, which might have the same benefit for some people.

Justice Paul Wooten of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan has decided that yes, suing a four year-old is a lucrative business and in fact legally sound. Citing previous cases from as far back as 1928, he’s determined that this four-year old will pay for acting in “an improper manner”. Really, she was just three months shy of five; maybe it is time that she grew up. Thus, being almost five made her a prime candidate for a lawsuit. Of course, it will be up the jury to decide if she’s guilty or not.  Perhaps this now five year old should have acted with ‘due care’ while she was racing her bike with a friend on East 52nd street in Manhattan.

It was a normal day in April, 2009 for the 87 year old Clare Menagh. She walked outside her apartment and was brutally hit by one Juliet Breitman, who was being watched by her mother Dana Breitman. The hit was hard, Clare needed hip surgery. Juliet’s training wheels on her bike couldn’t have prepared her for this. She rode on the sidewalk with these training wheels, which is technically legal for anyone under the age of 14 to do in New York City. Since Clare was 87, the chance of her surviving that sort of surgery was slim and she passed away three months later.

After Clare passed away, Clare’s estate got in touch with Juliet Breitman, informing her that they were suing her four year old daughter. This case exemplifies America’s evolution. Previously Clare’s estate might have said “Listen, we understand it was just an accident and it wasn’t intentional. We forgive you.” Now we have a far superior system that legally allows them to say to Ms. Breitman “We’re suing your four year old daughter for all she’s worth. I hope you can find a good lawyer! She’s going to wish she was never born, which wasn’t that long ago anyway.” So clearly we have improved ourselves as a country. 

Sure, some may say that perhaps the Justice Paul Wooten has a sort of bizarre name, and that it sounds kind of made up. Even more might argue the purpose of sending a five year old through our circuitous legal system will only speed up the evolution from idealistic young child to cynical teenager. Maybe by the age of nine Juliet will be a jaded teenager who believes in nothing. But I argue that Justice Paul Wooten decision doesn’t go far enough.
Children are being born each and every day. Our legal system has no way of dealing with these potential troublemakers, who cry loudly in supermarkets, retail outlets, and any other location where people might congregate. Suing children when they are born seems a bit too late. What Justice Paul Wooten should have done is use this opportunity to stem the tide of trouble-making before it begins. 

That’s right; we need to have all those thinking of being parents to pay a fee. Whenever any couple gets married they think about either having children or adopting some. As soon as any couple marries they need to immediately fill out a questionnaire. Most of it will be perfectly innocuous, like asking what their favorite TV show is, if they like dogs, favorite soda. But then there will be the following question:

“Do you plan on having or adopting children and raising them as your own?”

If they answer “yes” to this question, fine them! That’s right, in order to better protect our society, we must pre-emptively fine anyone who plans on having children in the future. By doing this, we will be able to avoid these kind of lawsuits in the future by just referring to the fine. It doesn’t have to be a particularly large fee, only about $10,000 or so. 

Before you pass this off as ridiculous, simply remember that we’re the country who regularly sues restaurants for having their coffee too hot and not warning us about it. We’re the country that needs to explain to people that contents may be hot for fear of being sued.  

So yes, we’ll see just what happens with this Juliet Breitman case. The jury might decide that suing a four year old is “insane and a total waste of everyone’s time”. Maybe it is time for all of our young children to grow up, to learn how to take responsibility for their actions, to learn the alphabet, to learn that Santa Claus isn’t real. America doesn’t allow for children to be children anymore, there’s no more innocence left.


  1. Textbook definition of negligence: doing something that a reasonable (prudent) person would NOT do; or, not doing something that a reasonable person WOULD do. Examples: leaving your children in a hot car for hours, or not changing your child's diaper for 48 hours, respectively.

    The reason that Granny Clare's family is not suing the mother--the obvious candidate for a lawsuit--is because there is nothing negligent about letting your child use a bicycle on the sidewalk. If the child wasn't old enough, or was on the street, or the woman's driveway, then we might have another story. But it seems like Juliet both did what a reasonable person would do, and didn't do what a reasonable person wouldn't do.

    So now we move to the child. The child probably "reasonably" shouldn't have smacked into GC. But there are two problems with this. 1) Again, with the understanding that she was properly using the bike in an area designated for bikes, as long as she didn't willfully speed up to crash into her, I think they're going to have a hard time proving there is any fault to be assigned here. 2) But much more importantly, can anyone call a 4 year old "reasonable"? In fact, it seems like the very laws that govern our country don't even consider 17 year olds to be reasonable enough to vote, or most people under 16 reasonable enough to make decisions about their sexual health.

    Yes, we're talking about "reasonableness" required to make major life decisions versus "basic reasonableness", but I don't think anyone would argue that a four year old has any capacity to make any decision more reasonable than, say "I would like to draw with the blue crayon instead of the red one".

  2. Thank you Lolz. I'm glad that somebody else sees the light. As I was reading the comments on this article, I thought:

    "Whoa, I can't believe that people aren't worried about whether or not it is moral, but whether or not it is legal".

    I get worried sometimes.