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Parents and legal guardians could face potential liability for a minor’s conduct in Iowa.

Parents and legal guardians could face potential liability for a minor’s conduct in Iowa.

Generally, a parental responsibility law makes parents or guardians liable for certain conduct caused by their minor children. Iowa’s parental responsibility law is codified in Iowa Code section 613.16. The following article will provide an overview of this law.

  • What children qualify under Iowa law?
  • What is the age range for children to qualify under this law?
  • What actions can expose a parent or guardian to liability?
  • Limitations of liability for parents under Iowa law
  • Liability to business entities
  • How to bring this lawsuit under Iowa law

Any minor children that you are the guardian or parent of are covered under Iowa law. However, if a parent does not have custodial rights over a minor child, the parent cannot be held liable for the minor’s actions under Iowa Code section 613.16.

What is the age range for children to qualify under this law?

Parental responsibility laws hold parents and guardians liable for certain actions by minor children. Iowa sets the age of majority at 18 years old. Furthermore, any child under the age of 18 is covered by the law.  

What actions can expose a parent or guardian to liability?

In Iowa, parents of an unemancipated minor are liable for any property damage or bodily injuries that results from a minor’s “unlawful acts.”

Iowa requires a minor’s actions to be unlawful before a parent will be financially liable. For example, a parent could be liable for the costs when a minor commits a crime like vandalism or assault. It is important to note here that, if the act itself is not illegal, Iowa code 613.16 cannot be used to hold the parent liable.

Limitations of liability for parents under Iowa law

Iowa Code section 613.16 holds parents and guardians responsible for the actual damages caused by their child’s unlawful actions. This covers the out-of-pocket losses such as property repair or medical bills. Under Iowa law, parents and guardians cannot be held liable for non-economic damages like pain and suffering.  

Additionally, Iowa Code 613.16 has the following limitations to the amount a claimant can recover from a parent or guardian:

  • $2000 for any single act; and
  • $5,000 to the same claimant for multiple acts.

Liability to business entities

Iowa Code section 613.16 specified that a parent or guardian’s liability is not limited to individuals. A parent could also be liable to a business. For example, should a minor vandalize a business’s building, the parent or guardian could be liable for the damage done to the building.

How to bring this lawsuit under Iowa law

If a claimant wants to file suit under this law, the proper defendants to bring are the parent/guardian as well as the minor child. There is no need to appoint guardian ad litem for the minor if the parents of the minor file an answer to the complaint.

Posted 
November 11, 2021
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