Can I sue the parents of a girl who stole my daughter’s cell phone?

An IPhone was stolen from my daughter’s backpack at school. Did find my IPhone via a search. It gave us an address; we had police meet us there and it that ended up it was an address where a girl in her class lived. The girl denied it. The girl has never had a cell phone so she didn’t know about the GPS tracker on it. We know she took it and probably disposed of it when she realized it wouldn’t work without a code to unlock it. $It was a 600 phone. Is there a chance we can take her parents to small claims court and make them pay for it?

Asked on April 4, 2016 under Business Law, Florida


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Yes, you can sue them (parents can be held civilly liable for their minor children's crimes), and if based on evidence (e.g. the police report; data from the tracker; your and your daughter's testimony) it appears more likely than not that she stole it (i.e. you proved your case by a "preponderance of the evidence"), you can get a court judgment for the cost/value of the phone. Suing in small claims court, acting as your own attorney is a very good option. As for the lake--yes, if you found the phone and had the diver who found it testify as to where it was found, that would help, but you can't recover or be reimbursed for the cost of the diver in court--you have to bear that yourself. So if it's too much, it undercuts the reason to sue. And if the lake is on the girl's family's property, you can't trespass on it. (If it's anything but public land, you can't go on without permission from the property owner[s].)

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