The Supreme Court of Virginia reheard today the case of the duty of parents to supervise and care for a teenage guest.
In July, the court found such a duty for parents who allowed a 14-year-old girl to ride in a car driven by a 17-year-old youth despite the insistence of the girl’s parents that there would be “no boys with cars” during the visit.
It agreed to rehear the case in September and withdrew the July opinion.
The girl, Jaimee Kellermann, was killed in a wreck in Henrico County in December 2004.
Jaimee’s parents filed suit against Paul and Paula McDonough, the parents of a friend of the girl, who had moved from the Short Pump area to Wake Forest, N.C.
The trial judge ruled that the McDonoughs had no duty that would support a wrongful death suit
Mark Krudys, the attorney for the parents, acknowledged that the court has never upheld liability for the actions of a third party in the absence of a special relationship, such as that of landlord-tenant or innkeeper-guest, between the defendant and the injured party.
But he said the circumstances differed in this case because the injuries arose from criminal negligence rather than assaultive behavior.
The foreseeability of injury from negligent driving by the inexperienced operator of the vehicle put the case in a difference posture, Krudys told the court.
He contended that the real concern of the defendants is “jury fear” because the plaintiffs still have the burden of proving that the defendant’s actions were a proximate cause of Jaimee’s death.
David Corrigan, representing the McDonoughs, argued that the broad duty of care the court set forth in the withdrawn opinion went far beyond its previous holdings in cases involving the acts of third parties.
By Alan Cooper