Friday, May 12, 2006
A small child drowned in a swimming pool while under her stepfather's supervision. The Washington Court of Appeals determines that the doctrine of parental immunity protects stepparents as it does legal parents, so long as the stepparent stands in loco parentis to the child. Rejecting an invitation to abolish parental immunity altogether, the court noted that "the doctrine is grounded not on a need to preserve family tranquility or avoid fraud, but solely on the need for discretion in performing parental duties." Given that rationale, the court concluded, "It is difficult to see why a stepparent living with a child and performing parental duties does not require the same wide sphere of discretion as a legal parent. Indeed, the freedom and willingness of a stepparent to provide for the child may be more in need of protection, given that a stepparent's obligation to the child derives only from the circumstance of marriage."
Zellmer v. Zellmer, 2006 Wash. App. LEXIS 817 (May 1, 2006)
Opinion on the web (last visited May 10, 2006 bgf)