Is a Parent's Negligent Failure to Supervise a Child Actionable ?

In Holodook v. Spencer (36 NY2d 35 [1974]) the Court of Appeals held that a parent's negligent failure to supervise a child does not generally constitute a tort actionable by the child. Holodook involved a situation where a four-year-old boy was struck by an automobile. The boy had allegedly darted out from between two cars. The defendant's answer contained a counterclaim alleging, inter alia, that the father had failed to properly supervise his son at the time of the accident. Defendant commenced a third-party action against the boy's mother on a similar theory. The Court found that the absence of the existence of a primary cause of action on behalf of the boy against his parents for damages necessarily defeated any secondary cause of action for contribution (see, id., at 51). In Nolechek v. Gesuale (46 NY2d 332 [1978]), the Court of Appeals held that parents may owe some duty to third parties to protect against their children's improvident use of a dangerous instrument. The Nolechek case involved a situation where a father sued various defendants for the wrongful death of his son, who died in a motorcycle accident. The Court permitted a claim for contribution against the father by reason that his son was a 16 year old who did not possess a valid operator's license. The motorcycle his son was operating was neither registered nor inspected. In addition, his son was blind in one eye, and vision impaired in the other. The Court stressed the foreseeable nature of an accident under such circumstances. LaTorre v. Genesee Mgt. (90 NY2d 576 [1997]) involved an incident at a shopping mall where a 20-year-old young man was involved in an altercation with an arcade manager. The man sued the shopping mall for his personal injuries. The shopping mall brought a third-party action against the man's mother for indemnification and contribution on a theory of lack of parental supervision. The Court of Appeals found the claim of negligent supervision to be nonactionable and affirmed dismissal of the third-party complaint.