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Justice Paul Wooten, a Manhattan judge, announced yesterday in a rather stunning decision, that a four year old girl may be sued for negligence in the injury and ultimate death of an 87 year old woman. It's tragic, no doubt; but negligent? A four year old? Seriously? Turns out, His Honor absolutely believes the little girl can be sued because there was ''no evidence that the girl lacked intelligence, maturity and nothing to indicate that another child of similar age and capacity under the circumstances could not have reasonably appreciated the danger of riding a bicycle into an elderly woman''. But wait. There's more. The mother, who was with her daughter when the accident occurred, should not be held liable and the ruling stated further, ''a parent's presence alone does not give a reasonable carte blanche to engage in risky behavior such as running across a street''.
This, of course, begs the question, what about the parents who are held liable when their teens wreck the family car, break into the neighbor's home, get locked up for loitering and the twelve million other brouhahas teens find themselves in? Don't we, as Americans, hold parents accountable?
The judge ruled that there was no evidence to believe she (the four year old) lacked maturity and intelligence. This absolutely baffles the mind. Two questions would have provided all the evidence the judge could have possibly needed. Ask this child to define ''intelligence''. Question two, ask her if she does her own laundry and vacuums her own bedroom. Those two questions would reveal that this child has neither maturity or intelligence. She's not supposed to! It's likely she only has been sleeping in a ''big girl bed'' and has probably just learned her alphabet. As she grows, she likely will continue to develop and mature, but she is a toddler. For an esteemed judge to make such a disturbing ruling would be laughable were it not such a slap in the face to the American justice system.
It's tragic the elderly woman passed away three weeks after the little girl ran into her with her bicycle. Her family sued, which is what this week's hearing focused on.
Bottom line is the judge made a bad call and his decision will have repercussions for many years. A golden opportunity was missed that could have taught this child a lesson and that accidents indeed happen. This child must now shoulder not only the guilt she will likely feel about the death of the woman (It's not been determined if hers and the little's girls run in was related to her death), but now, she'll be stuck with the label of likely being the youngest American deemed mature enough to sue. What's next? The neighbor suing when little Billy picks flowers from her flower bed to present to his mother?
The case, now allowed to move forward, will likely be heard in early 2011.
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