When are parents in Nevada responsible for a child's actions?

Nevada's “parental responsibility” law subjects parents to "vicarious liability" of up to $10,000 for damage or injuries inflicted by the willful misconduct of their children. This applies regardless of whether the parent acted irresponsibly.

But parents who are negligent in the supervision and control of their children may face additional liability over and above the $10,000 damage cap. These parents could also face criminal prosecution under Nevada's child endangerment or neglect laws.  

For instance, a parent may face very high liability for letting a child without proper training use a dangerous object such as a car or a firearm.

Example: Jennifer's 10-year-old son, Kevin, breaks into her safe and removes her gun. He then takes the firearm to a friend's house to show it to him. The gun is loaded. While Kevin is showing it to the friend, the gun goes off. The bullet hits the friend in the arm, causing him a great deal of pain and suffering and $75,000 in medical bills.
Kevin has no money of his own. But under Nevada law, his friend can recover up to $10,000 in compensatory damages from Jennifer, even though she did nothing wrong.1 
However, if the gun had not been kept in a locked safe, Jennifer may also be liable under NRS 202.300, Nevada's civil law on aiding a child to possess a gun. This would constitute a violation of Nevada's negligent entrustment law as well as “negligence per se” under Nevada law. Jennifer would then be liable for ALL the damages caused by the gun injury due to her negligence (i.e., the $75,000 in medical bills plus damages for pain and suffering and possibly punitive damages as well).
Jennifer might also face an investigation as to whether she violated any of Nevada's criminal laws on parental responsibility. In other words, she could potentially face two entirely different legal proceedings:
  1. A civil lawsuit by her son's friend and the friend's parents to recover damages for the child's injuries; and
  2. A criminal prosecution by the state of Nevada for violating her parental responsibility to her own child.

To help you better understand Nevada's civil laws on parental responsibility for children's misdeeds, our Las Vegas personal injury lawyers discuss, below:

child hiding gun in book at school

1. Nevada's parental responsibility law -- NRS 41.470

Under Nevada's parental responsibility law, a parent or guardian having custody and control of a minor under 18 years of age is liable for any act of willful misconduct by the minor when such misconduct results in:

  • Injury or death to another person,
  • Injury to the private property of another, or
  • Injury to public property.2

The exception is people licensed by the state of Nevada to conduct a foster home. Such persons are not liable for the actions of minors in their care unless they took some affirmative action that contributed to the act of the child.3

2. Nevada's legal definition of “willful” misconduct

Nevada defines “willful misconduct" as intentional wrongful conduct, done either:

  • With knowledge that serious injury will probably result, or
  • With a wanton or reckless disregard of the possible results.4

This does not mean that the child intended to cause harm, only that the child knew that his actions were wrongful.

Example: A young child accidentally disengages the parking brake in her parent's car. The car rolls down the street and hits a parked vehicle, resulting in car repair bills of $3,000. Because the child's conduct was not willful the parent is not liable under NRS 41.470.
However, if the child were older and had intentionally disengaged the parking brake to get her parent's attention, the parent could potentially be held liable under NRS 41.470. Even though the child wasn't intentionally trying to cause damage, if the child knew that disengaging the parking brake could injure someone, and the child did it on purpose, the misconduct was willful.

3. The meaning of "joint and several" parental liability

Under Nevada law, a child can be held liable for all damages caused by her own willful misconduct.

However, few children have significant assets.

NRS 41.470 gives people injured by a child's willful misconduct an extra opportunity to recover compensation by making the parent(s) and child jointly and severally liable for such injuries.

However, unless the parent has done something personally wrong or there is another basis for assigning vicarious liability to the parent, the joint and several liability of the parent(s) or guardian(s) under NRS 41.470 is capped at $10,000.5

4. Parental liability for minor's use of a firearm – NRS 41.472

NRS 41.472 imposes additional civil parental liability on a parent, guardian or other person legally responsible for a minor when the parent or responsible person:

  • Knows that the minor has previously been adjudicated delinquent or convicted of a criminal offense; or
  • Knows that the minor has a propensity to commit violent acts; or
  • Knows or has reason to know that the minor intends to use the firearm for unlawful purposes.

In such a case, if the parent permits the child to use or possess a firearm, he or she is jointly and several liable with the child for ALL damages caused by the child's negligent or willful misconduct in using the firearm. The $10,000 cap does NOT apply.

Example: Billy has previously been adjudicated a delinquent for an act of criminal assault against a schoolmate. Nevertheless, Billy's mother thinks Billy ought to learn to defend himself. She allows Billy to use her gun to take firearms training classes with her in Clark County.
But one day Billy gets mad at the instructor and points the loaded gun at him. The gun accidentally goes off, killing the instructor. Billy's mother can be held responsible for all the damages awarded by a jury or in an out-of-court settlement in a wrongful death action brought by the instructor's family.
And as, discussed above, Bill's mother could potentially be prosecuted for violating Nevada's criminal laws on child endangerment. However, this would be a decision made by the Nevada district attorney for Clark County. It would be an entirely separate decision and proceeding from a wrongful death civil lawsuit brought by the instructor's survivors.

Injured by a child in Las Vegas? Call us for help…

If you were injured due to the misconduct of a minor in Las Vegas, you may be able to recover more than $10,000.

Our experienced Las Vegas injury and accident lawyers understand the legal theories that will support a claim to recover all your compensation when you have been injured by a child.

To schedule your free consultation, call us at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) or complete the form on this page.

Your consultation does not subject you to any obligation to proceed against the child or to use our services. But if we mutually agree to move forward, you pay us nothing until you win your case or settle out-of-court.

Legal references:

  1. Kevin may also be charged with a delinquent act and a misdemeanor under Nevada's criminal laws.
  2. NRS 41.470 (1).
  3. NRS 424.085.
  4. Davies v. Butler, 95 Nev. 963, 602 P.2d 605 (1979).
  5. NRS 41.470 (2).


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