A Gilbert mother and father recently found themselves in an uncomfortable situation.
Their 16 year old daughter, and her two friends were over for lunch. They were listening to music and goofing around on Facebook at the family computer in the kitchen, while the mom made lunch for her daughter and guests.
There was not a time when this mother was not within earshot, although she was not actively listening to what was going on. When the kids asked to walk to the park nearby, the mother thought that would be okay.
When the kids came back, she didn't see them because her husband had just pulled up, and offered to take the kids home. About 30 minutes later, her husband and daughter returned. There was obviously something wrong, she saw it on her husband's face.
He asked her if their daughter had been feeling sick at all earlier at day, because she was very, very sick now. Her daughter was almost unresponsive, and both parents became frightened. Upon closer inspection and a quick mental note of what medication she could have gotten into, the parent's anxiety level tripled. One of their kids uses stimulant medication, while it is kept closely guarded, the question was there...could she have gotten into the medication?
The mother began pinching her daughter trying to wake her up. It was then that the teen confessed, and then vomited in her shoe. She told her parents that she and her friends took tequila from the liquor cabinet, poured it into a soda can and had gone to the park-where 2 of the 3 became drunker than skunks.
Anger, mixed with fear, morphed into extreme concern for the other drunken skunk, whom her husband had dropped off at her house, thinking the girl was normally uncommunicative rather than intoxicated.
She knew her husband could handle their daughter. She broke the speed limit, and probably shortened the life of her cars' tires by leaving bits of them in the street as she came screeching to a stop, leaving skid marks in front of the other girl's house.
Much to her relief, the girls' parents were there. A tremendous relief washed over her when she was reassured that the girl was safe. She had been holding her breath without realizing it.
Once the skunks were out of the woods, the mom started replaying the afternoon in her mind. She had been right there the entire time, except for a period of about five minutes, when she had gone upstairs to check on her son.
They decided to take the alcohol, devised a plan, put the plan in motion...and she hadn't suspected a thing. She hadn't seen any of it.
Later that night, while everyone else was asleep the "What If" thoughts kept her awake most of the night.
What if they had taken the Ritalin AND the alcohol?
What if they had taken just a bit more and poisoned themselves?
What if someone had noticed they were snockered and had taken advantage?
What if she couldn't keep from strangling her daughter the next day?
After thoroughly wearing out of the "What If" thoughts, the "I Wonder" thoughts moved in and stayed awhile.
Who is responsible for the skunks?
Was it her "fault" the very naughty skunks had access to adult beverages?
Was she culpable for the visiting skunks' behaviors while they visited?
Are the skunks old enough at 16 to have been responsible for their own actions?
How many articles would one have to write to be able to afford a boarding school in Timbuktu?
Here is the deal, the law is fuzzy. Many situations are not black and white (as parents know), and as much as society dictates that parents are responsible for their kids' actions, what if the parent is literally right there? Is she negligent if she was right there with no reason to believe the little darlings were planning to become intoxicated?
Here is what the beginning of her research has uncovered:
A parent is liable for a child's negligent acts if the parent knows or has reason to know that it is necessary to control the child and the parent fails to take reasonable actions to do so. This legal theory is known as negligent supervision.
Liability for negligent supervision is not limited to parents. Grandparents, guardians, and others with CUSTODY and control of a child may also be liable under these circumstances. There is usually no dollar limit on this type of liability. An umbrella or homeowner's insurance policy may offer the adult some protection in a lawsuit.
Specific to Arizona
Parents are liable for intentional acts of their children that injure others or damage their property. Parents can be held automatically liable for up to $10,000 in damage. Although not automatic, under some circumstances, this legal responsibility may extend to the full value of the victim's damages.
Tonight, in our town of Gilbert, there lives a teen who is so grounded, it shouldn't even be called "grounded"...it should be called something else entirely. "Grounded" just doesn't imply the intensity with which the girl is grounded. The level of grounding is a radically, extreme, vigorously enforced new level to the grounding period.
Has anyone else been here?
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Tracy Lynn Cook is a writer in Gilbert, Arizona. To read more, please visit her blog at www.TLCsThoughts.com, or browse by topic: