The Tender Years Doctrine In Car Accident Cases

Should Motor Vehicle Drivers be More Careful where Pedestrian is a Young Child and are They Liable for Resulting Injuries ? In Bell v. Giamarco, 50 Ohio App. 3d 61, 553 N.E.2d 694 (1988), a five-year-old was struck by a car after a driver, motioned her and her brother that it was safe to cross the street. The brother, older than the five-year-old, did not cross the street. The Ohio Appellate Court stated that, "where the pedestrian is a young child, motor vehicle drivers are charged with greater care in discharging their duties than would be imposed were the pedestrian an adult." Bell, 50 Ohio App. 3d at 62-63, 553 N.E.2d at 697, citing Sargent v. United Transportation Co., 56 Ohio App. 2d 159, 381 N.E.2d 1331 (1978). From that, the court held, "while an adult may have no right to rely on hand signals from drivers beckoning them to turn or cross the street, we conclude that a young child who so relies may properly seek to hold the operator liable for resulting injuries." Bell, 50 Ohio App. 3d at 63, 553 N.E.2d. at 697. In Bell, the five-year-old did not enter the street until after being signaled by the adult that it was safe to cross. In Sweet, the 10-year-old testified that she relied on signal of the driver and understood the signal to mean that it was safe to cross. Moreover, while 16 years of age is still technically a minor, a 16-year-old is not "a young child" as discussed in Bell. See generally Toney v. Mazariegos, 166 Ill. App. 3d 399, 519 N.E.2d 1035, 116 Ill. Dec. 820 (1988) (discussion of the tender years doctrine applicable to children under the age of seven).