The Monster Next Door

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Q: My wife was a retired teacher.  Two doors away, lived another woman.  Her son had a history of substance abuse and psychiatric problems, taking him in and out of various drug-abuse and mental-health facilities.  One day, officials at his latest facility gave him a pass to leave, just for a couple of days.

The next morning, he forced his way into our home.  By noon, the crime had been discovered.  He has since pleaded guilty to murder and burglary.

A: Even if your neighbor’s admission to the facility was merely voluntary on his part, the fact that he needed a pass in order to visit his mother suggests that he was not completely free to leave.  The facility had some degree of control and responsibility.  Your attorney will contend that this facility had sufficient authority and control over his conduct to give rise to a duty to protect the general public.  Accordingly, you have a cause of action in negligence against the facility and/or its employees.

As for suing his mother, the facts as you tell them do not appear to give rise to an exception to the general rule – that a parent cannot be held liable for the actions of an emancipated adult child.  Moreover, even though landowners generally have a duty to control the conduct of third persons on their premises, this tragedy simply did not occur at his mother’s home.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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