A sad story came out of Cary just a few short months ago. At East Cary Middle School in Wake County, one student pushed another who then collided with the 12-year-old victim. As the victim was falling to the ground, he hit his head on a table. According to school sources, the child suffered a “major head injury” as a result of the fall. At the time of this writing, there have been no further updates other than that the child is in good condition at WakeMed.
While not specifically implicated by these facts, people often ask about the potential for negligence claims against minors. It’s not quite as simple as saying whether minors are, or are not, negligent. North Carolina has generally adopted what is known as the “rule of sevens.”
Under the rule of sevens, a child under the age of seven is considered incapable of negligence. A child between the age of seven and fourteen is presumptively considered incapable of negligence, but the presumption can be rebutted with a showing of facts that would indicate the child should be treated like an adult regarding duty of care. Finally, a child between the ages of fifteen to seventeen is considered presumptively capable of negligence, but that presumption can also be rebutted.
Again, there’s nothing here to even suggest that legal action might take place. However, if it hypothetically did, you would probably see a case where the presumption would be applied to children treating them as if they are incapable of committing negligence. It’s not an insurmountable presumption, but it would be very difficult to show that a child in this context should have an adult-like duty of care attached.
If any updates to this story become available, we will be sure to update the post.