The Fiend Whom I Had Let Loose among Them: Should Parents Be Liable for Their Children's Atrocities Note


Nicole Palermo

Document Type



Since the 1990s, the United States has been struggling to curtail the growing trend of mass shootings committed by adolescents in its public schools. Often the victims and their families have resorted to using the civil court system, suing the shooters and other responsible third parties for contributing to the harm inflicted. Although several of these lawsuits have failed, courts have frequently extended liability to the parents of shooters below the age of majority. However, courts have almost uniformly rejected the idea of extending liability to parents of adult offenders by claiming that once a child reaches majority, the nature of the parent-child relationship fundamentally changes. Despite this general consensus against extending liability to parents of adult offenders, the families of those killed in the Sandy Hook Massacre are attempting to sue Nancy Lanza's estate for her negligence which contributed to her son's attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School. This Note explores the role and responsibilities of parents to their children's development, parent liability generally, and parent liability in the context of mass school shootings. Furthermore, this Note examines the characteristics of parent-child relationships and how age alone does not necessarily change this relationship. Finally, this Note argues that parents of adult offenders could be held liable in certain limited instances.

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