Under parental responsibility laws, parents and/or legal guardians can be held accountable for certain types of damage and harm caused by minor children. The extent of a parent's liability (from both a situational and a financial standpoint) depends on the specifics of each state's law. (For more information, check out the Basics of Parental Responsibility Laws.)
This article will explain Mississippi's parental responsibility laws in detail.
Mississippi's Parental Responsibility Laws focus on three areas:
(Note: There is no direct link to the statutes listed above. The link takes you to the start page for the official online version of the Mississippi Code. From there you can navigate through to the relevant statute using the citation provided.)
As for how young a child must be in order to trigger parent/guardian liability in Mississippi, there are different age designations for the different statutes:
Mississippi Code section 93-13-2 imposes liability on parents if their minor child maliciously or willfully damages or destroys someone else's property. Unlike a number of other parental responsibility laws regarding willful and malicious activity, section 93-13-2 does not address bodily injury -- only property damage.
Under section 93-13-2, property owners can recover up to $5,000, plus their court costs, from the parents of a minor who maliciously and willfully causes damage to property. Parents who have had their custody rights stripped away by a court order are not subject to liability under the statute.
Mississippi Code section 97-15-1 can impose liability upon minors and/or parents in addition to what section 93-13-2 allows.
Section 97-15-1 can be used to hold parents liable for vandalism committed by a minor who is within their custody and control. The penalty is the actual cost of replacing or repairing the vandalized property, plus a fine that can range between $200 and $500.
In addition to the penalties described above, a minor, or the minor's parent, can be imprisoned up to six months under this statute. This is an uncommon penalty, and courts will likely not impose it on a parent unless the vandalism is severe, and the parent could have reasonably prevented it but chose not to.
In Mississippi, a parent, or other responsible adult, must sign a minor's application for a driver's license or permit. And under Mississippi Code section 63-1-25 a minor's negligence or willful misconduct while operating a vehicle will be imputed to the person who signed the application. Specifically, the person who signed the application becomes jointly and severally liable with the minor. This simply means the adult and minor can be responsible collectively, or individually, for the damages the minor causes.
So, a parent or guardian who signs a minor's driver's license application can be on the financial hook for all injuries and vehicle damage if the minor ends up causing a car accident.
Parents may still find themselves liable for their children's actions even in situations when Mississippi's parental responsibility laws do not specifically apply.
Under a non-statutory set of legal principles known as the "common law," when a parent knows that their child has a propensity to act in a dangerous or reckless manner, the parent may be under a legal obligation to take reasonable steps to prevent that child from causing foreseeable harm to others.
Suppose parents know their child comes home from school each day and hits golf balls out of the back yard across the neighborhood. If a parent allows this behavior to continue, and the minor ends up injuring someone with an errant golf ball, the parent may be deemed partially responsible, although it may not be the easiest case to prove. Learn more about Negligence, the Duty of Care, and Fault for an Accident.