When parents or homeowners assume the responsibility of supervising another’s child or children, can that result in liability if something goes wrong?
The answer depends, as explained by a very sad case decided last week by the California Court of Appeal in Taylor v. Trimble.
Jerry Taylor brought his 5 year old son Jaylen to a backyard party hosted by Alton and Judith Trimble. The backyard had a swimming pool, and Jaylen did not know how to swim.
After a short while, Mr. Taylor left Jaylen under the supervision of the Trimbles, who observed Jaylen wading in the shallow end of the pool. Eventually, Jaylen’s grandfather Donald Green, a Captain with the Los Angeles Fire Department, arrived at the party and took over supervising his grandson Jaylen. Tragically, Jaylen drowned a short while later.
Mr. Taylor sued the Trimbles, arguing that they were negligent in supervising Jaylen as they’d agreed to do. The Trimbles supported their summary judgment motion by arguing that Donald Green, Jaylen’s grandfather, had assumed the responsibility of supervising Jaylen when he arrived at the party. The Court agreed.
The Court of Appeal explained that “a defendant is not, by virtue of his or her status as a homeowner, responsible for supervising children who are invited onto his or her property where the children’s parents are present and supervising or expected to be supervising the child.” (Padilla v. Rodas (2008) 160 Cal.App.4th 742, 748-49.) It is normally the duty of a parent or other adult having primary supervisory control over the child to see to it that a child would not be going into a place of obvious danger, such as a swimming pool (Id.)
There is a difference, however, when a homeowner has expressly or impliedly agreed to supervise a child while the minor is on the premises. In that circumstance, the homeowner may be liable for negligent supervision.
In this case, the Trimbles supervised Jaylen until his grandfather Donald Green arrived. Mr. Green then agreed to take over supervising Jaylen. Mr. Green was not only the boy’s grandfather, but also a high-ranking member of the LAFD. The Court ruled, therefore, that the Trimbles were not to blame in Jaylen’s tragic death.
“Close and constant supervision is the only reliable method of keeping young, non-swimming children safe in an adult pool. Absent such supervision, no duty we could impose on pool owners would prevent similar tragedies from occurring.”
This heartbreaking case defines the contours of California’s negligent supervision cases.
For questions about your Los Angeles accident or negligent supervision case, the Rabbi Lawyer is ready to assist, 24/6.