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Why McCarthy Law Office? When you need a lawyer, you need the best. For 25 years Scott McCarthy has helped people with family issues, litigate contract disputes, recover losses from injury and wrongful death and manage their mistakes. He is an experienced attorney who knows the system.  He has the passion, breadth of experience and knowledge, that gives his clients their best possible results. Scott has a reputation for sharp, honest evaluations, calling people back promptly, being on time to meetings and court appearances, meticulous preparation for trial and his desire to see their case through so his client's lives can continue on their best possible course forward.

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Parents - Do you know where your children are?

You think you had a bad day! Cheryl Rothering came home one day to learn that her child had been involved in a drive-by shooting. The victim was shot at point blank range with a shotgun causing extensive damage. If that was not enough to cope with, Ms. Rothering later received legal papers in the mail. She was being sued under a statute which makes parents responsible for the negligent or willful misconduct of their children when operating a motor vehicle in the state of Wisconsin.

In the state of Wisconsin, any person under 18 years of age must have their parents sign a sponsorship form prior to obtaining their driver's license. The parent is then responsible for the negligent or willful misconduct of their child while that child is operating a motor vehicle. The parent can avoid liability at any time by filing a verified written request that the license of the minor be canceled. Within ten days after receipt of the request, the Department of Motor Vehicles must cancel the license.

The purpose of this statute is not only to make sure someone is responsible for the damages caused by their children but also to encourage parents to obtain insurance for their children. However, finding a policy to cover drive-by shooting is difficult.

The Supreme Court threw out the lawsuit against Ms. Rothering. The Court found that the statute was confined only to situations involving the operation of the motor vehicle rather than conduct that occurs during the operation of the motor vehicle. In other words, the statutes would apply to liability resulting from bad driving, but not to all bad things a person may do while they happen to be driving. The Supreme Court found that any other interpretation could result in absurd results. For example, a parent could be found liable if their child attempted to kiss another child while at a drive-in theater simply because the unwanted advance occurred in a vehicle.

As an aside, there are other statutes which make parents liable for the acts of their minor children. The most all encompassing such statute limits recovery against a parent to $5,000 for the willful, malicious or wanton acts of their children. Parents can also be forced to reimburse stores for the retail theft of their children and clean up the graffiti of their children. Finally, if you were wondering, Ms. Rothering's child was sentenced to 27 years in prison for his role in the drive-by shooting.