CanI be held legally responsible for damage to a car that was done by my special needs children?

UPDATED: Jul 28, 2011

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CanI be held legally responsible for damage to a car that was done by my special needs children?

I have 2 special needs children that wondered away from the house late at night and found a car dealership 3 blocks from their home. The cars had the keys in the ignition and they drove them around on the car lot. 1 son did some body damage to 1 of the cars with an estimated amount of damage $2000. am I responsible for all of the damage, part of the damage or can I hold them responsible for placing my children in harms way by leaving the keys in the cars?

Asked on July 28, 2011 Arizona


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

You would be liable for negligence for all damage to the car done by the kids.  It would be difficult to claim that the auto dealer is liable for placing your children in harms way by leaving keys in the car for a few reasons.  That argument is called attractive nuisance.  The problem with the argument is that if applicable, it usually applies to small children.  If your kids are big enough to drive a car, there would be a problem with that argument; however, since you said they are "special needs", you might be able to argue attractive nuisance based on their mental age.  There may still be problems with the attractive nuisance argument such as the fact that auto dealerships usually are surrounded by tall locked gates/fences which the kids would have had to scale and the fact that the dealership is three blocks from your home. 

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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