California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

402. Standard of Care for Minors

[Name of plaintiff/defendant] is a child who was years old at the time of the incident. Children are not held to the same standards of behavior as adults. A child is required to use the amount of care that a reasonably careful child of the same age, intelligence, knowledge, and experience would use in that same situation.

New September 2003

Sources and Authority

  • “Children are judged by a special subjective standard. . . . They are only required to exercise that degree of care expected of children of like age, experience and intelligence.” (Daun v. Truax (1961) 56 Cal.2d 647, 654 [16 Cal.Rptr. 351, 365 P.2d 407].)
  • If the negligence is negligence per se, violation of a statute will create a presumption of negligence that “may be rebutted by a showing that the child, in spite of the violation of the statute, exercised the care that children of his maturity, intelligence and capacity ordinarily exercise under similar circumstances.” (Daun, supra, 56 Cal.2d at p. 655.)
  • Restatement Second of Torts, section 283A, provides: “If the actor is a child, the standard of conduct to which he must conform to avoid being negligent is that of a reasonable person of like age, intelligence, and experience under like circumstances.”
  • The standard of care for minors is not the standard of an “average” child of the same age; the standard is subjective, based on the conduct of a child of the same age, intelligence, and experience as the minor plaintiff or defendant. (Cummings v. County of Los Angeles (1961) 56 Cal.2d 258, 263 [14 Cal.Rptr. 668, 363 P.2d 900].)
  • An exception to this reduced standard of care may be found if the minor was engaging in an adult activity, such as driving. (Prichard v. Veterans Cab Co. (1965) 63 Cal.2d 727, 732 [47 Cal.Rptr. 904, 408 P.2d 360]; Neudeck v. Bransten (1965) 233 Cal.App.2d 17, 21 [43 Cal.Rptr. 250]; see also Rest.2d Torts, § 283A, com. c.)
  • Children under the age of five are incapable of contributory negligence as a matter of law. (Christian v. Goodwin (1961) 188 Cal.App.2d 650, 655 [10 Cal.Rptr. 507].)

Secondary Sources

6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, §§ 998–1000

California Tort Guide (Cont.Ed.Bar 3d ed.) § 1.19

1 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 1, Negligence: Duty and Breach, § 1.31 (Matthew Bender)

33 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 380, Negligence (Matthew Bender)

16 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 165, Negligence, §§ 165.121, 165.190 (Matthew Bender)

31 California Legal Forms, Ch. 100A, Personal Affairs of Minors (Matthew Bender)