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Lawskills.com Georgia Caselaw
BELL v. ADAMS.
41143.
Action for damages. Gwinnett Superior Court. Before Judge Pittard.
BELL, Presiding Judge.
2. The liability of a parent for the tort of his child as provided in Code Ann. 105-113 applies only to acts of the child directed to the damaging of property and to injuries to the person resulting naturally and proximately from those acts. It does not apply to the child's intentional shooting and killing of another.
Doris Gunter Bell sued H. L. Adams to recover damages for the death of plaintiff's minor son, David Bell. The petition alleged: Defendant is the father of Scott Adams, a minor son under the age of seventeen. On July 10, 1962, Scott Adams shot and killed David Bell with one shot from a .22 caliber rifle belonging to defendant. Plaintiff charges that defendant was negligent in "leaving and possessing a .22 caliber rifle in such manner and condition as to allow the same to come into the possession and control of his minor son" and in "failing to prevent his minor son from inflicting fatal injuries to petitioner's minor son." Conclusionary allegations of the petition show that the killing was intentional.
Defendant interposed a demurrer to the petition upon general and special grounds. After hearing, the trial judge entered judgment sustaining defendant's demurrer and dismissing the petition.
Plaintiff excepts to the judgment sustaining the demurrer and dismissing her petition.
Under appropriate construction of the petition and upon the premises of plaintiff's argument to establish liability under Code Ann. 105-113, the shooting of plaintiff's son was a third person's independent criminal act intervening between defendant's alleged negligence and plaintiff's injury. In a suit for damages, where it appears upon the face of the plaintiff's petition that there intervened between the alleged negligence of the defendant and the damage sustained by the plaintiff, the independent criminal act of a third person which could not have been reasonably foreseen by the defendant, and which was the direct and proximate cause of the damage, the petition should be dismissed on general demurrer. Andrews & Co. v. Kinsel, 114 Ga. 390 (40 SE 300, 88 ASR 25); Daigrepont v. Teche Greyhound Lines, Inc., 189 Ga. 601, 605 (7 SE2d 174, 127 ALR 217); Pinnell v. Yellow Cab Co., 77 Ga. App. 73, 75 (47 SE2d 774); Skelton v. Gambrell, 80 Ga. App. 880, 884 (57 SE2d 694).
The latter rule apparently would not apply if the petition had disclosed that the defendant had reasonable grounds for apprehending that the criminal act would be committed. See Williams v. Grier, 196 Ga. 327, 338 (26 SE2d 698). However, the petition contains no averments showing that defendant had any reason to anticipate his son's act of shooting another. This case is controlled adversely to plaintiff by the above authorities and by Hulsey v. Hightower, 44 Ga. App. 455 (161 SE 664), in which are discussed issues involved here. See, also, the cases denying parental liability which are mentioned by Judge Eberhardt in Herrin v. Lamar, 106 Ga. App. 91, 93 (2) (126 SE2d 454) and see 68 ALR2d 782 on the subject of liability of persons allowing children access to guns.
2. Plaintiff contends that her petition sets forth a right to recover under Code Ann. 105-113, which provides: "Every parent having the custody and control of a minor child or children under the age of 17 shall be liable for the wilful and wanton acts of vandalism of said minor child or children resulting in injury or damage to the person or property of another . . ."
Code Ann. 105-113 is in derogation of common law. For this reason it must be strictly construed. Foster v. Vickery, 202 Ga. 55, 60 (42 SE2d 117) and citations. In the construction of statutory enactments, the ordinary signification shall be applied to all words. Code 102-102 (1). "Vandalism" means the destruction of property generally. General Accident &c. Corp. v. Azar, 103 Ga. App. 215, 218-219 (119 SE2d 82). "Vandalism" does not encompass within its meaning acts directed only against persons. Accordingly, the statute provides for liability of the parent only in instances where the child's act is one that is intended to damage property. Of course, an act of vandalism within this meaning of the Code may result in injury to persons and consequent liability of the parent for the personal injuries inflicted. See Landers v. Medford, 108 Ga. App. 525, 527-529 (2, 3) (133 SE2d 403), which differs from this case in that the act there resulting in injuries to the plaintiff's son was essentially an act against property and therefore within the meaning of "acts of vandalism" as used in Code Ann. 105-113. Here there is no allegation that the act of the defendant's minor son was in any way directed toward the damage of property.
The judgment of the trial court sustaining the defendant's general demurrer and dismissing plaintiff's petition must be affirmed.
Judgment affirmed. Frankum and Hall, JJ., concur.
Merritt & Pruitt, Glyndon C. Pruitt, contra.
G. Hughel Harrison, for plaintiff in error.
ARGUED FEBRUARY 3, 1965 -- DECIDED APRIL 30, 1965 -- REHEARING DENIED JUNE 14, 1965.
Friday May 22 20:45 EDT


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