Are parents liable for adult children?
Not usually, which is why a lawsuit filed by the mother of Staci Montgomery is quite unique.
In December 2009, Montgomery was murdered by Scott Marshall -- the former law firm partner of her ex-husband. Her mother has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Marshall, his parents and his 92-year-old grandmother.
She believes their negligent actions contributed to her daughter's death.
The lawsuit accuses Scott Marshall's parents and grandmother of failing to warn Staci Montgomery about their son. It claims that they "committed acts of omission and commission, creating a condition which posed an unreasonable risk of harm."
They either knew or should have known he was dangerous, and were negligent in not communicating with his victim.
This lawsuit is strange -- and will probably fail -- for two reasons:
- The law rarely holds parents liable for adult children; and
- The Marshalls appear to have had no duty to warn.
As to the first reason, parental liability generally stops at the age of 18. Adult children are responsible for their own actions. That is, unless they have been ruled incompetent and placed in the care of their parents. Scott Marshall was an independent adult who made his own decisions.
And secondly, a person can only be found negligent if they had a legal obligation to the victim. There's no indication that the Marshalls knew Staci Montgomery or came into contact with her after her divorce. There also doesn't seem to be evidence that they knew of any danger.
And even if Staci Montgomery's mother does find evidence, it probably won't matter.
- Drug-addicted Dallas attorney admits killing woman (Associated Press)
- Negligence (FindLaw)
- Am I Civilly Liable for My Kids' Actions? (FindLaw's Injured)