Neighbor's negligent parental supervision claim is dismissed.
Michell Rollinson sued her neighbor, Janice Beresowskyj, after the defendant's 17-year old son struck her in the head with a baseball bat, causing multiple skull fractures and a loss of hearing. Rollinson argued that Beresowskyj breached her duty to control and supervise her minor son's assualtive behavior. The case arose out of a neighborhood altercation that involved a broken window and a loose dog. The Court held that the defendant mother owed no duty to intervene and interrupt her son's assault of Rollinson, and on that basis the judge granted the defendant summary disposition.
The victim appealed to the Court of Appeals. A Michigan statute provides that "where a person in injured by the act of a child which proximately results from negligent parental supervision over the child, the injured party has a valid cause of action against the parents." Nevertheless, the Court held that since the Defendant's son weighed over 300 pounds and was known to have a propensity toward assaultive behavior, while his mother suffered from cancer and a heart condition, the mother owed no duty to act to control the "boy." The victim's attorneys argued that mom's duty was not limited to a duty to physically control the son.
The Court rejected Plaintiff's arguments and took pains to emphasize that the assault was sudden and unforeseeable. The judges considered that the latter circumstance outweighed the mother's duty to take measures beyond physically controlling the son's conduct (such as dialing 911--or at least threatening to do so). The higher court also concluded that Plaintiff's claim that the mother negligently failed to maintain the "boy's" medication was "disputed" and inherently speculative and therefore could not support a legal action. In past decades, "disputed" factual claims were precisely the claims that could not be summarily dismissed because they required a jury to "weigh" the credibility of the disputed testimony.