There is some version of a parental responsibility law on the books in most states. These are civil statutes that can be used to hold a parent or guardian financially liable when a minor child commits certain harmful acts. Depending on the specifics of the state’s law, parents may even be on the financial hook when their children cause an accident and someone ends up getting injured.
In this article, we’ll look at New Hampshire’s parental responsibility law, which is very limited in terms of the type of conduct that will trigger parental liability.
You can find New Hampshire’s parental responsibility law at New Hampshire Revised Statutes section 507:8-e. Here is the full text of the statute: “A parent, guardian or other person having legal custody of a minor who fails or neglects to exercise reasonable supervision and control of the conduct of such minor shall be liable in a civil action for any acts of vandalism, as defined [under New Hampshire law], by such minor to the real or personal property of another.”
That’s the extent of the statute. The first thing to note is that New Hampshire’s law only holds a parent financially responsible for a minor’s acts of vandalism, including purposeful destruction of property and graffiti. A lot of states’ parental responsibility laws hold a parent liable for personal injuries and property damage stemming from a minor’s intentional or willful actions (including assault and battery), and some even hold a parent liable for damages resulting from a car accident (or other mishap) caused by a minor.
While a lot of states place a ceiling on a parents’ financial liability for a minor’s actions, there is no such cap in New Hampshire. So, parents can be ordered to pay the full amount of all losses stemming from a minor’s acts of vandalism.
In New Hampshire, even though section 507:8-e is very limited in scope, parental liability for a child’s actions may still exist under traditional fault theories like negligence.
It isn’t always easy to prove this kind of case, but a parent may be liable if they know of their child’s dangerous tendencies yet they fail to take reasonable steps to properly supervise the child, and someone ends up getting injured in a way that was foreseeable. (Learn more about Negligence and the Duty of Care.)