Brief Fact Summary.
A minor sues driver to recover for damages after colliding with driver’s vehicle while on a bicycle.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
When there is a violation of a statute, a minor is not subject to the doctrine of negligence-per-se.
14-year-old Donald Bauman (Plaintiff) was riding his bicycle when he collided with Robert Crawford’s (Defendant) vehicle. It was nighttime when the collision between the Plaintiff and Defendant occurred. State statute required bicycles to have headlights after dark. Plaintiff’s bike was without headlights. Plaintiff sued Defendant for the injuries he suffered from the accident, and Defendant asserted contributory negligence as a defense to the suit.
Whether a minor is subject to the doctrine of negligence-per-se when there is a violation of a statute.
No. A minor may not be held liable under the negligence-per-se doctrine when he or she has violated a statute. The majority rule is that children should not be subject to the negligence-per-se doctrine because, traditionally, children have been held to a lenient standard of care.
The court was correct to remand the case for a new trial. The court’s majority should have gone further in its ruling and re-examined the use of negligence-per-se doctrine in negligence cases. Negligence-per-se doctrine allows for the determination of negligence to be based on the violation of a statute instead of leaving that determination to the trier of fact. Where there is a violation of a statute, the trier of fact should examine the negligence which resulted in violation of the statute along with all other evidence.
Traditionally, the courts measured the actions of children against the actions of reasonably prudent children of the same age whose conduct is the same in similar situations. Â This standard reconciles the fact that children lack the judgement and experience that adults have.