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St. Mary's Law Journal

Publisher

St. Mary's University School of Law

Abstract

In the last decade approaching the 1970s, Texas has adopted a less rigid approach to the parent-child immunity doctrine, which equips parents with immunity from suits involving tort actions brought by their children. The support for this doctrine relies on the rationale that such actions disrupt family harmony and parental discipline averse to a civil society. This study examines the origin, development, and subsequent erosion of the parent-child immunity doctrine in other state jurisdictions by analyzing its development in common law. Texas’s approach to the parent-child immunity doctrine mirrors the developments of other state jurisdictions. While some states eliminated the doctrine in common law, other states abrogated the doctrine and passed legislation that provides exceptions to the rule. Three main exceptions prove to be common in any abrogation approaches a jurisdiction adopts. One, if the cause of action exists outside the parental relationship such as the employer-employee context, the suit is typically sustained. Two, if the minor’s cause of action can be redressed through the parent’s insurance, in the case of automobile accidents, family harmony is not harmed by the suit. Lastly, if family harmony is already disrupted through the maliciousness of the parent, then parental immunity is inappropriate. Texas has abrogated the doctrine to include an exception for the employer-employee relationship and common law has decided against parental immunity in cases where no reason for it exists. Texas has not yet recognized causes of action in lawsuits for auto accidents where parental immunity is invoked. Texas and other jurisdictions fear the slippery slope of flooding the courts with cases where vicarious liability can be resorted to for all injuries regardless of negligence, if insurance is present. The willingness of courts to re-evaluate laws as conditions change reveals the continuing development of justice.

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Family Law Commons

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