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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 71031
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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My 16 years old son stayed with a friend whose parents were

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My 16 years old son stayed with a friend whose parents were away for the weekend. There were 8 boys who stayed the night and during the course of Saturday evening, lead by the host's son they took it in turns to drive his parents VW Polo around the garden/land. At no time did the go on the public highway. My son (who had never driven before until this point )was sharing the burden of driving with another boy and the other boy was supposed to be doing the gears. They needed to reverse away from the house and believing the car to be in reverse gear my son accelerated to reverse but in fact went forward into the verandah knocking over a wooden pillar and doing, we believe, about £4000 worth of damage to the car.
I would like to know where we stand as his parents in the eyes of the law.
What are we liable for?
What could happen?
Thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.
I am sorry but they could sue you. Ultimately you are his parents and he is under 18. I'm afraid you are liable for his wrongful acts on the basis essentially that you failed to control him. You could defend on the basis that he is an autonomous young man as, in fairness, a 16 year old is not as easy to control as a 7 year old but a Court may consider you are responsible I'm afraid.
In terms of the level of liability, you could defend on the basis of contributory negligence. Clearly the actions of your son caused this damage but it is fair to say that his friend was encouraging this. You might get a reduction on the basis that they shouldn't have left them unsupervised but you cannot rely on that.
I'm very sorry but that is your position.
Can I clarify anything for you?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Oh dear, that's not great news at all.

As matters stand we have agreed to pay half of the costs. But they seem increasingly unhappy about this but are not in full possession of the fact of what happened on the night as their son is keeping this from them. Could they take this money from us and still sue us?

What about the other boys who drove the car?

Do they not have any liability as owners of the car/land property. What if my son had been injured in the course of this?

You could offer it in full and final settlement. Then if they accept they couldn't sue.
I don't think they could get out of the fact that their son was partially liable.
No, they have no liability as the owners of the car. If he had been injured it would have been his fault entirely.
You could add the driver as another defendant to any claim but there is no obligation upon them to sue him rather than you I'm afraid.
The risk though is that they could complain to the police as this is a TWOC.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.


I am really surprised that leaving their 16 year old son to invite friends over and drive their car on their land has no implications for them?

Presently we are awaiting the full bill from the garage and have agreed as I said to pay 50%. I hope this will be the end of things but what you are saying is that they would be within their rights to ask us to pay the whole amount, and could report this to the police and our son could get a criminal record?

If this is true then I will need to be very careful where I let my son go in future, as we cannot afford this level of liability,

Taken and driven away. He is not the owner of the car and he doesn't have their permission to use it.
It does have implications for them. They are the victims of a TWOC.
It is not an issue of where he goes. Where ever this had taken place he would still be liable.
Yes, they could report this to the police. They would probably offer a caution for TWOC if he has no previous but it would still be a record.
If they went to the civil courts then there could be a reduction on the basis I mentioned above. He is clearly liable but others have contributed.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.


What is your best advice to us to do?

If nobody has mentioned going to the police yet then I wouldn't panic too much about that. They clearly haven't thought of it and also it would have implications for their son as he has almost certainly committed some offences as well.
I would try to calve this up. Offer 50% on a full and final settlement and see if that is acceptable. He clearly not the only person responsible.
If that is not adequate then invite them to sue. You can always add other parties responsible to the claim so the cost would be spread.
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