Most states have passed some form of a parental responsibility law that makes parents or legal guardians civilly liable for certain actions taken by minor children. Louisiana’s version of this law is one of the most far-reaching in the country, and in this article we’ll explain what parents need to know.
You can find Louisiana’s parental responsibility law at Louisiana Civil Code Article 2318, and it extends potential civil liability to a father and/or mother who resides with a minor child (meaning a child under the age of 18), for any harm resulting from the child’s actions.
Even if the parents have placed their child “under the care of other persons,” article 2318 still holds the parents liable, but it also gives them the right to pursue “recourse against those persons.” That means if someone files a civil lawsuit against the parents for something that the child has done, the parents have the legal right to in turn pursue a claim against the people who have been charged with caring for and supervising the child.
Unlike the majority of states, where parental responsibility laws only trigger liability on the part of a parent or guardian when a minor child’s actions are intentional, willful, and/or malicious, Louisiana’s law is as simply-stated as it is broad: “The father and the mother are responsible for the damage occasioned by their minor child.”
So, parents in Louisiana are basically “strictly liable” for their children’s conduct under Louisiana Civil Code Article 2318. The child’s intent or mindset does not matter. Parents are liable for damages stemming from an accident caused by their child, and for harm resulting from their child’s intentional act. And the type of harm that results from the child’s conduct does not matter either. That means a parent could be on the financial hook for personal injuries caused by a car accident, and for property damage resulting from acts of vandalism like graffiti. Parents may even be responsible for non-economic damages like pain and suffering. (Learn more about Damages in a Personal Injury Case.)
Finally, while most states place a monetary limit on a parent’s civil liability for their child’s actions, Louisiana’s parental responsibility law has no such cap. So, Louisiana parents could conceivably be sued for six- and even seven-figure sums under article 2318, if their child’s conduct ends up causing serious harm to others.
To learn more about parental responsibility laws, negligent supervision, and related legal issues, check out our section on Accidents and Injuries Involving Children.