California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

410. Parental Liability (Nonstatutory)


[Name of plaintiff] claims that [he/she] was harmed because of [name of defendant]’s negligent supervision of [name of minor]. To establish this claim, [name of plaintiff] must prove all of the following:

1. That [name of defendant] [insert one or both of the following:]

[observed [name of minor]’s dangerous behavior that led to [name of plaintiff]’s injury;] [or]

[was aware of [name of minor]’s habits or tendencies that created an unreasonable risk of harm to other persons;]

2. That [name of defendant] had the opportunity and ability to control the conduct of [name of minor];

3. That [name of defendant] was negligent because [he/she] failed to [insert one or both of the following:]

[exercise reasonable care to prevent [name of minor]’s conduct;] [or]

[take reasonable precautions to prevent harm to others;]

4. That [name of plaintiff] was harmed; and

5. That [name of defendant]’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing [name of plaintiff]’s harm.


New September 2003

Directions for Use

This instruction is not intended for use for claims of statutory liability against parents or guardians based on a minor’s willful conduct, e.g., Civil Code section 1714.1 (willful misconduct), section 1714.3 (discharging firearm), or Education Code section 48904(a)(1) (willful misconduct).

Sources and Authority

  • “While it is the rule in California . . . that there is no vicarious liability on a parent for the torts of a child there is ‘another rule of the law relating to the torts of minors, which is somewhat in the nature of an exception, and that is that a parent may become liable for an injury caused by the child where the parent’s negligence made it possible for the child to cause the injury complained of, and probable that it would do so.’ ” (Ellis v. D’Angelo (1953) 116 Cal.App.2d 310, 317 [253 P.2d 675], internal citations omitted.)
  • “Parents are responsible for harm caused by their children only when it has been shown that ‘the parents as reasonable persons previously became aware of habits or tendencies of the infant which made it likely that the child would misbehave so that they should have restrained him in apposite conduct and actions.’ ” (Reida v. Lund (1971) 18 Cal.App.3d 698, 702 [96 Cal.Rptr. 102], internal citation omitted.)
  • “In cases where the parent did not observe the child’s conduct which led to the injury, the parent has been held liable where he had been aware of the child’s dangerous propensity or habit and negligently failed to exercise proper control or negligently failed to give appropriate warning. In other cases, where the parent did not observe and was not in a position to control the conduct which endangered the plaintiff, recovery was denied on the ground that there was no showing that the parent knew of any dangerous tendency. What is said about ‘propensity’ or ‘habit’ in those cases has no applicability where the parent is present and observes the dangerous behavior and has an opportunity to exercise control but neglects to do so.” (Costello v. Hart (1972) 23 Cal.App.3d 898, 900–901 [100 Cal.Rptr. 554], internal citations omitted.)
  • “ ‘The ability to control the child, rather than the relationship as such, is the basis for a finding of liability on the part of a parent. . . . [The] absence of such ability is fatal to a claim of legal responsibility.’ The ability to control is inferred from the relationship of parent to minor child, as it is from the relationship of custodian to charge; yet it may be disproved by the circumstances surrounding the particular situation.” (Robertson v. Wentz (1986) 187 Cal.App.3d 1281, 1290 [232 Cal.Rptr. 634], internal citations omitted.)

Secondary Sources

6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, §§ 1227–1234

California Tort Guide (Cont.Ed.Bar 3d ed.) General Principles, § 1.25

1 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 1, Negligence: Duty and Breach, § 1.12; Ch. 8, Vicarious Liability, § 8.08 (Matthew Bender)

6 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 58, Assault and Battery, § 58.16 (Matthew Bender)

32 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 364, Minors (Matthew Bender)

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

16 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 165, Negligence, § 165.130 (Matthew Bender)

31 California Legal Forms, Ch. 100A, Personal Affairs of Minors, § 100A.251 (Matthew Bender)

1 California Civil Practice: Torts (Thomson West) §§ 3:32–3:35