Parent’s Held Responsible for Child’s Damage to BC School: Must Pay $48,000

By Paul Mitchell, Q.C.
Categories: Blog, Litigation

A recent BC case held parents liable for damages of over $48,000 caused to school property by their child.

This case highlights the sometime harsh effects of s.10 of the BC School Act, which holds parents responsible for intentional damage to schools done by their children, even though the parents have nothing to do with their children’s conduct.

In this case the child tried to play a prank by attaching a lock to a sprinkler head. The prank went awry and the sprinkler went off, causing over $48,000 in water damage to the school.

The child was found negligent and both he and his parents were ordered to pay back the full amount of the damages based on. 10 of the School Act which reads as follows:

“If property of a board or a francophone education authority is destroyed, damaged, lost or converted by the intentional or negligent act of a student or a francophone student, that student and that student’s parents are jointly and severally liable to the board or francophone education authority in respect of the act of that student.”

Madam Justice Fitzpatrick noted this is a harsh result for the parents who had nothing to do with the damage but s.10 of the School Act compelled her to order the parents to pay.

The judge stated in her reasons:

[36] What s. 10 seeks to accomplish is to impose statutory liability for the intentional actions of a student that cause damage to the school, which is a liability imposed beyond whatever liability there might be at common law. The section accomplishes a shifting of risk from the school to the student and that student’s parents arising from the actions of the student. I do not consider that a plain reading of s. 10 results in any other interpretation or a “reading in” of the meaning of “intentional act”, as the Deans assert…
[38] In my view, there is no ambiguity in s. 10. It simply refers to an “intentional … act”. Accordingly, I conclude that the legislative intention, however draconian it may be, is that the student need not have intended to cause damage by his or her act. The parties agree that, if this interpretation prevails, the parents are liable by a plain reading of s. 10…
[93] In my view, the School District has proven its case in terms of the applicability of s. 10 of the School Act to the circumstances here.
[94] I am sure that this is a very unfortunate result for the Dean family and perhaps it will be for other families in the future. This was clearly the result of a young boy misbehaving and thinking that the only grief to come of it would be to Ben and perhaps the janitor in removing the padlock. Obviously, more dire consequences followed. However, if there is to be any change to this provision in the School Act, that is a matter for the legislature, not the courts.
[95] The action is allowed and judgment is granted against all defendants in the amount of $48,630.47, plus court order interest and costs to be assessed.

For full reasons of the case see here
Nanaimo-Ladysmith School District No. 68 v. Dean