Contributory Negligence and Children: Tender Years Doctrine

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In Maryland, the issue of contributory negligence is generally a jury question.  Judges are loathe to make calls as whether the plaintiff's conduct contributed the the injuries suffered.    
One challenge juries face is dealing with the question of contributory negligence of children in pedestrian accident cases.   How do you judge the reasonableness of, for example a 5 year-old child?  

Maryland applies the tender years doctrine to these cases which instructs juries to evaluate children for purpose of contributory negligence by considering the child's "age, experience and training.'" 

The law begs another question.   Are their some ages at which a child cannot be negligence.   Many jurisdictions that apply the tender years doctrine set out age limits as to when a child is presumed to lack capacity for negligence.   The age seems to very largely between 5 and 7 in jurisdictions that have the tender years doctrine.   

Illinois would seem to have the best law for plaintiffs.  In Illinois,a child under seven years of age is conclusively presumed to be incapable of contributory negligence as a matter of law.  Taking it a step further,  children between 7 and 17 years of age have a rebuttable presumption that they were not negligence.  It is hard to say how the Maryland Court of Appeals would address this issue.   I don't believe there are any Maryland high court opinions on point.

Three Maryland Cases Worth Reading

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