If my2 year old son pulled down a heavy sign holding glass samples outside a car wash, if it fell on his leg but did not hurt him, who is at fault?

I was right there but helping my 1 year old daughter at the time. It is all on video and he clearly pulled it down. I’ve seen signs like this before and they have been chained to the wall; this was not tethered to anything. On top of this they would not let my leave the day of the accident by keeping my keys. It was a traumatic seen. The owners were verbally abusive. The police were called and my keys were returned. No report was taken. This happened 3 days ago and they called yesterday. I don’t know what I should say when I call.

Asked on November 26, 2011 under Personal Injury, California


MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, there is no requirement for the owners of the business to tether items and there is no obligation on the part of the business owners to ensure your son does not pull down the glass samples. While the business may owe a reasonable duty of care to people who come and go from the business, the fact that the glass was up and not at level with the son was probably sufficinet. You will most likely not be successful in any suit against you since a) you owe a legal duty to your minor child who is not of capacity to understand the wrong in his actions (usually 7 is a good age for that) and b) your son did not suffer any damages but the business did. I would check with your car insurance and homeowner's insurance policies to see if coverage could be handled through those entities before you call the owners back. You will be able to use the conversion argument (taking your car keys and not allowing you to leave) as a way to counter sue which may help negate this whole suit.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

It is possible that the car wash and you were both at fault: the car wash for not securing the sign better, you for not supervising your child. If there was some injury and lawsuit, who would have to pay how much would depend on the exact circumstances--how was the sign set up? were you generally watching your daughter and she just got away from you for one moment, vs. she was "running amuck" without supervision? Etc.

Why are you going to call? If there was no injury, there is nothing to sue for, and so effectively no legal action to take. Even if they are at fault--something you'd have to prove in court--they do not need to offer compensation if there is no injury to provide compensation for. Therefore, it is not clear what you would accomplish by calling.

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