Carson Dean, a 14 year old student at Wellington Secondary School in Nanaimo thought it would be a fun prank to attach his friend’s padlock to the sprinkler head in his school. Upon jumping for several minutes, Carson managed to attach the lock causing the sprinklers in the entire school to become activated.
Carson’s actions caused $48,630.47 in damage to the school. The School District applied to the court for an order that Carson’s parents pay for the damage to the school and Madam Justice Fitzpatrick agreed on January 7, 2015.
The School District relied on s. 10 of the School Act, RSBC 1996, c.412, which states in the relevant part that if property of a board is destroyed, damaged, lost or converted by the intentional or negligent act of a student, that student and that student’s parents are jointly and severably liable to the board in respect of the act of that student.
Madame Justice Fitzpatrick finds that the Act shifts the risk of the student’s actions from the school to the parents and that a student does not need to have intended to cause damage by his or her act for the parents to be held liable for damage to the school.
The general rule then is this: So long as a student performs an act intentionally, and that act causes damage, the parents of that student are liable for the damage.
Madame Justice Fitzpatrick notes that although this may be seen by some as some as a draconian (meaning excessively harsh) measure, the intention of the legislation is clear. If the legislature is of the opinion that the outcome is overly excessive, it is up to the legislature to amend the legislation so it’s application does not result in such harsh results.