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Are Parents Responsible for Actions of Children’s Visiting Friends?

Jan 7, 2022 | Written by: Tracy B. Bussel, Esq. |

As a parent, do you often wonder what responsibility you have for your children’s friends when they visit your home?  What about when hosting a children’s birthday or holiday party?  The Appellate Division in Craig v. Margulis decided that spontaneous actions of one guest causing injury to another does not create liability.

On December 22, 2013, when the plaintiff was fourteen years old, she attended a holiday party at the home of her friend, the defendants' daughter. Approximately ten children were at the party and the defendants were the only adults present. After dinner some of the children asked if they could play outside, to which the defendants warned the children to be careful.  The defendants had a zipline in the backyard, however, the defendants testified that when they gave the children permission to go outside, they "did not expect [the children] to play on the swings nor the zip[line], nor did [they] grant them permission" to use the zipline.  The defendants' son instructed the kids on how to use the zipline, which included instructing them where to step off and where the zipline ended. The plaintiff had not ziplined before she went to the defendants' home.

The first time the plaintiff went down the zipline, she did not pick up her feet to continue the rest of the way.  She let go about four feet before the end of the zipline and slipped into the mud, falling on her behind.  She decided to use the zipline for a second time and did not fall during this turn.  On the plaintiff’s third time on the zipline, the boys recorded the plaintiff and even stated that they wanted to record her falling again. When the plaintiff proceeded, one of her feet was held by one of the boys and she could not continue down the line. When she attempted to pull her foot from the boy’s hands, the force caused her to fall backwards onto her head.

Following the incident, the plaintiff received medical treatment and was home-schooled for several months.  The plaintiff sued her friends’ parents, the defendants, for negligent supervision. The matter was dismissed on summary judgment. The judge noted there was no evidence of any defect in the zipline or that it was unsafe when properly used. In fact, the plaintiff understood how to use the zipline and she was able to accomplish her second ride without any problem. While the plaintiff contended the defendants owed her a duty to supervise the activities of the children, she never explained the extent of this duty. The Appellate Court agreed with the trial court, finding no reasonable juror would be able to conclude that the defendants knew or should have known there was a need to exercise control over a particular guest at their children's party such that the spontaneous actions of another child would cause the plaintiff to lose her balance and fall on her third attempt to zipline.

While this decision would not be applicable to all situations, it does demonstrate that unforeseen or spontaneous actions of one guest causing injuries to another will not make for a negligent supervision case.



Tracy B. Bussel, Esq., is a partner at Gebhardt & Kiefer, PC, and practices primarily in the areas of employment law, civil rights litigation, general liability, insurance defense, and the representation of public entities.  Contact Ms. Bussel at 908-735-5161 or via email.

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Any statements made herein are solely for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon or construed as legal advice.