Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Has Parental Liability Gone Too Far?

"Durwood Pickle was shocked to find that the Recording Industry Association of America had sued him because his grandchildren had used his computer to illegally download music during visits to his Texas home. Increasingly, parents – or in Pickle’s case, a grandparent – are being held responsible for the misdeeds of their offspring. While much of the new legislation has been driven by high-profile violent crimes, such as the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado by two teenagers, the parents of shoplifters or Internet music downloaders can find themselves sued for damages. Advocates say that holding mom and dad responsible for the crimes of their children is good public policy. Such laws reduce juvenile crime and motivate adults to become “better parents” on pain of suffering serious penalties, even jail terms.

In an article in the University of Illinois Law Review, Amy L. Tomaszewski questions these assumptions and asserts that parental liability laws are a misguided and simplistic solution to the problem of youth crime.  “Parents may be held liable for the violent crimes of their children under a theory of strict vicarious liability; however, the applicability of this theory is called into question when technology and business enter the picture,” Tomaszewski wrote. She is a former editor at the journal." By Mark Reutter, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Link (last visited 12-14-05 NVS) Link to law review article (last visited 12-14-05 NVS)

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