How to Name a Minor Defendant in Your Small Claims Case - dummies

How to Name a Minor Defendant in Your Small Claims Case

By Judge Philip Straniere

Small claims cases involving people under age 18 or those with developmental or some other disability fall into special categories and can require a change in plaintiff or defendant. If you’re under the age of 18 and unemancipated, which means still dependent on your parents for support, your parent or guardian has to bring a suit on your behalf.

Likewise, if the person you are suing, the defendant, is under the age of 18, you may have to name the minor’s parent because the minor doesn’t have the legal capacity to be sued.

Say your daughter and another seventeen-year-old are involved in an automobile accident. Both of the persons involved in the accident are minors and lack the legal capacity to sue in their own names. If you’re bringing a personal injury action as the “parent and natural guardian,” you would sue the “parent and natural guardian” of the defendant minor.

However, if you’re bringing a property damage claim, then the fact that your kids are involved won’t be important as the owner of each car is the proper plaintiff and defendant.

Persons with developmental disabilities or suffering from a medical condition which prevents them from participating fully in the litigation may need to have a guardian appointed by the court in your state that handles those issues because they may lack the legal capacity to either bring or defend a lawsuit.

If you’re the parent of a developmentally disabled child, don’t assume that you’re always going to be the person making decisions for your child. A person who reaches the age of 18 is legally considered an adult with all the rights and obligations of an adult, developmental disabilities notwithstanding.

If your child is unable to take care of herself, as the parent you must take steps to have yourself named legal guardian; otherwise, the law presumes that she can act on her own behalf.

If you are the parent of a developmentally disabled child, you must act to have you or your spouse or some other adult appointed as guardian of your child when she reaches legal age. You don’t want to find yourself in the hospital emergency room arguing about who is legally able to make decisions in regard to treatment.