A baby-sitting grandfather. A BB gun. A lost eye. The recent Bryan v. Garcia case in Texas has a tall tale to tell about supervision, negligence, and personal injury. While their parents were out of town, two brothers ages 5 and 8 stayed with their grandfather. When a first cousin came to play with a BB gun in hand, the boys asked and received permission from their grandfather to take his own BB gun to the house to play with their cousin. Tragedy struck when the cousin shot the younger brother in the eye with a BB gun.
The child had to undergo both eye removal surgery and prosthetic eye insertion, incurring nearly $90,000 in medical expenses and an estimated $76,000 along the way. The boy’s father sued both the grandfather and the cousin (through the boy’s parents) for negligence. He claimed that the grandfather had both failed to supervise the children and contributed to the shooting by allowing the boys a “dry run” with the guns, which the grandfather supposedly had checked for pellets. In addition, he claimed that the cousin should not have pointed and fired the BB gun at his cousin’s face.
The boy claimed complete negligence, but the grandfather contended that he was not at fault since he had been periodically checking on the boys while they played with the guns. Ultimately, an argument about shared liability arose, with plaintiffs countering the grandfather’s argument that the cousin’s parents should be found 100 percent negligent and liable.
In the end, the jury decided on 75 percent liability for the grandfather and 25 percent for the cousin via his parents. The cousin’s insurance company settled with Bryan’s family for $300,000 and an additional $520,000 was awarded by the jury. Ophthalmologists and prosthetics experts were called to the stand as expert witnesses during this complex litigation.
The moral of the story: parents can be sued for their children’s actions. And even if you don’t fire the gun, you can be responsible for the outcome. It was a hard lesson to learn for Bryan, who at age five has lost an eye and some of his innocence in the process in a lawsuit that split a family and resulted in verdicts and settlements that total thousands.