Negligent Supervision Laws govern the liability of adults who have failed to exercise their duty of care when monitoring children. A person may become liable for negligent supervision if:

  • They know (or have reason to know) that the child must be controlled or protected, AND
  • They have failed to do so

Each state may have different laws when covering negligent supervision. However, most states will impose liability on an adult if the elements listed above have been met. Supervision duties are sometimes determined between the parties through a formal contract, such as when a day care requires a parent to sign a liability form.

Who Can Be Held Liable for Negligent Supervision?

“Negligent supervision” usually applies to relationships between a parent and their biological child. However, any person who is legally entrusted with the care of a minor can be subject to negligent supervision laws. These may include:

  • Stepparents
  • Legal guardians
  • Relatives such as grandparents
  • Day care providers
  • School officials
  • Community group leaders (such as a boy scout troop leader)

Negligent supervision is sometimes used in other relationships, such as those between employer/employee, or supervisor/worker. However, the term most commonly refers to the supervision of children.

What Are Some Examples of Negligent Supervision?

Many different acts can be listed under negligent supervision statutes. Liability is more likely to be imposed if the adult knew of a danger or threat to the child, but failed to take action to eliminate the danger. Some examples of negligent supervision include:

  • Failing to secure dangerous items such as guns or toxic chemicals
  • Failing to keep the child safe from hazards in the environment such as heavy traffic, swimming pools, dangerous machinery, open windows, etc.
  • Allowing the child to use facilities or equipment that they are not allowed to use
  • Failing to protect the child from physical or emotional abuse from another child, if it could have been prevented

Negligent supervision can sometimes result if the adult allows the child to engage in illegal acts. Common examples of these are where the adult knowingly permits the minor to vandalize property, or allows them to drive a car without a license.

What Are the Consequences for Negligent Supervision?

Violations of negligent supervision laws can lead to legal consequences for the adult. For example, they may be required to pay for damages if the child was injured. They may also have to pay for property damage in some cases, for example, if they allowed the child to commit vandalism. 

In many states, parents or guardians can even be held legally responsible for violations committed by the child. Parental responsibility for juvenile crime is enforced in many states, which results in the parent facing criminal consequences (even if they didn’t commit the crime themselves).  

Finally, negligent supervision can expose the adult caretaker to a private civil lawsuit (for example, when a parent sues a day care provider for damages). These are typically tried under parental responsibility laws

For these reasons, it is important for a person to fully understand their duties if they will be caring for a minor. 

Should I Contact a Lawyer for Help with Negligent Supervision Laws?

Negligent supervision laws are enforced very strictly, since they involve the safety and well-being of minors. If you are facing a situation involving negligent supervision, you may wish to hire a criminal defense lawyer for representation in court. Or, if you believe your child was suffered losses due to the negligence of another party, a personal injury lawyer can help you file a lawsuit with the appropriate court.