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Are Colorado Parents Liable for the Wrongful Acts of Their Children?

Posted by attorney Edward Hopkins

The mere fact that a child (someone under 18 years old) has a parent (or guardian) will not make the parent liable for the child's wrongdoing. If a normal child commits an unforeseeable wrongful act that harms someone else despite his or her parent's reasonable supervision, then it is unlikely the parent will be liable for the child's wrongdoing. But there are circumstances when a parent may be held liable for a child's negligent, malicious, or criminal acts.

If a parent is independently negligent, and the harm his or her child's wrongful conduct caused would not have occurred but for the parent's independent negligence, the parent may be held liable for the child's wrongful conduct and the damages that conduct caused. There are three ways a parent can be independently negligent for his or her child's wrongful act: (1) knowingly permit it, (2) fail to supervise the child, or (3) fail to warn others about a dangerous child.

If a parent knowingly permits the child to do a wrongful act, and that act harms someone else, the parent may be held liable. If the parent fails to reasonably supervise a child and that failure enables the child to do a wrongful act that harms others, the parent may be held liable. If a parent whose child has a known propensity for violence fails to warn others about the child's dangerous propensity, and that failure to warn results in harm to someone else, the parent may be held liable.

Colorado Revised Statutes § 13-21-107 may impose liability on a parent for a child's acts too. If a child maliciously or willfully damages or destroys another's property, the parent may be held liable for the actual damage up to $3,500, in addition to court costs and reasonable attorney's fees. Similarly, where a child knowingly causes bodily injury to another, the victim is entitled to recover the actual damage from the parent in an amount not to exceed $3,500, plus court costs and reasonable attorney fees.

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