LaBier v. Pelletier

665 A.2d 1013 (1995)

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LaBier v. Pelletier

Maine Supreme Judicial Court
665 A.2d 1013 (1995)

KL

Facts

Joseph LaBier, a four-year-old, was riding his bicycle in a neighbor’s driveway while his mother, Nyla LaBier, talked with the neighbor. While going down the driveway, Joseph’s feet slipped off the pedals. Joseph lost control of the bicycle and rode into the street. Monique Pelletier (defendant) was driving her car down the street, obeying the speed limit, when Joseph rode out into the street in front of her. Pelletier hit and injured Joseph. Acting on Joseph’s behalf, Joseph’s father (collectively, the LaBiers) (plaintiffs) sued Pelletier for negligence. Pelletier alleged that Nyla and Joseph were comparatively negligent and brought a counterclaim against Nyla for contribution. Pelletier argued that Nyla’s negligence in failing to supervise Joseph caused the accident. The trial court instructed the jury to consider Joseph’s and Nyla’s negligence and only find in favor of the LaBiers if Joseph’s and Nyla’s combined negligence was less than Pelletier’s negligence. The jury found that Joseph was not negligent, Pelletier was partially negligent, and Nyla was more negligent than Pelletier. Accordingly, judgment was entered in Pelletier’s favor. The LaBiers appealed. On appeal, Pelletier argued that the trial court correctly imputed Nyla’s negligence to Joseph. Pelletier argued that parents and their children were united by a legal fiction and therefore were vicariously liable for the torts of the other, that imputed parental negligence prevented a negligent parent from benefiting from his or her negligence, and that changes in the law should be left to the legislature.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Roberts, J.)

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