Brief Fact Summary. This was a personal injury action brought on behalf of Kelly Robinson, a minor, involved in a snowmobile accident. The jury found in favor of Billy Anderson (Defendant), also a minor, who was operating the vehicle at the time of the accident. The trial court ordered a new trial, because there had been an improper instruction. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court’s judgment. Defendants appealed.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. When the activity a child engages in is inherently dangerous, as is the operation of powerful mechanized vehicles, the child should be held to an adult standard of care.
Issue. Should a minor operating a snowmobile be held to an adult standard of care?
Held. Yes. The Supreme Court of Washington affirmed the lower courts’ holdings, stating that because Defendant had engaged in the inherently dangerous activity, the operation of a snowmobile, he should have been held to an adult standard of care.
Discussion. With regard to minors and the duty of care, in most jurisdictions, children are held to a standard that compares their conduct to other reasonable children of the same age, experience, and intelligence under like circumstances. Such a standard allows the jury to consider the child’s particular qualities such as experience and intelligence. When, as here, children are engaged in adult or inherently dangerous activities they are held to the same standard as adults. As the court explained in Robinson, “[t]he care or caution required is according to the capacity of the child, and this is to be determined ordinarily by the age of the child. A child is held only to the exercise of such degree of care and discretion as is reasonably to be expected from children of his age.” As the court concluded, “The operation of a snowmobile requires adult care and competence because it is a powerful motorized vehicle.”