12 y.o. Babysitter Saves Kids & Pet in Fire. Gets Sued.

Oh Dear, Readers. Here’s the latest story: A 12 year old girl babysitting two boys in a trailer noticed a fire and quickly got the kids out, got the pet out, and even dialed 911. BUT the fire damaged the house next door (owned by the boys’ grandparents). They’re suing her, and they’re suing the boys’ dad for hiring her.

It sounds like maybe it is all about insurance having to sue SOMEONE, but it hinges on whether it is safe to hire a 12-year-old. To me it sounds like they hired the very person I would want around MY home and kids if we ever had a fire. — Lenore

52 Responses

  1. Not to mention the fire was started by a kid playing with a lighter. Shouldn’t the owners of the house have kept the lighter away from the 5-year-old? Or do they expect the babysitter to go through the house and child-proof it for them?

    Definitely some insurance company needs a smack upside the head. The grandparents too.

  2. Is there a link to the story?

  3. From the article:
    “Aaliyah, who was 12 at the time of the fire, had taken a babysitting course and a Red Cross safety course.”

    I’m not sure what else a 12 year old should have done to be properly trained to babysit for the two boys. Magically become 30? Prevent fires with the power of her mind?

  4. They should sue the tobacco companies. After all, the kid wouldn’t have had a lighter if the father wasn’t a smoker. Not that I know the father was a smoker. But why else have a lighter, right?

    This course of action makes about as much sense, and is significantly more honorable than suing the person who saved your grandchildren.

  5. Seriously? I am more surprised this is a Canadian story. I’d almost expect it to be from one of the more litigious states like NJ.

    Why on earth would you sue a young girl who SAVED BOTH OF YOUR GRANDCHILDREN!?!?!?! Hopefully the judge throws the suit out of court then files charges against the plaintiffs for wasting the court’s time.

  6. Wait…the lawsuit alleges that the girl wasn’t “properly trained” to do what she was hired to do (though she was Red Cross certified) and the people who hired her are SUING? Wow. Talk about no personal responsibility. I think she should also file suit for defamation of character and damage to her livelihood (assuming she still babysits).

  7. Some people are just opportunists. Remember that dumb lady who sued McD’s when she got burned, because she decided to put a McDonald’s HOT coffee between her legs while driving…WITHOUT a lid (I’m still baffled that she won that case). Also tells me the grandparents must have been poor excuses for parents. Suing their own son?

    Kudos on the girl. That’s a smart, confident, educated child. I hope the courts laugh the grandparents out of the courtroom.

  8. I’m also surprised this is out of Canada. Canadians are supposed to be nice, right? I thought it was we Americans with the somebody’s-gotta-be-sued mentality. This suit would stand a chance in an American court–I hope Canadian courts are more sensible.

    That said, why sue the kid and her parents? If you’re going to sue someone, why not sue the manufacturer of the lighter whose required child resistance was clearly inadequate? Deeper pockets there, too.

  9. The babysitter didn’t start the fire.
    The babysitter saved lives.
    The babysitter alerted the authorities.

    She did everything right. If the grandparents want to sue anyone it should be the parents. Their lighters were the cause and presumably they didn’t teach their kids not to play with fire. And if the sitter wasn’t properly trained (which she was, but let’s just play devil’s advocate) it’s still the parents who are responsible for hiring her.

    Anyway, they should be ashamed of themselves. They should be glad that their grandchildren got out alive instead of sueing innocent girls 2 years after the event.

  10. Trust me fellow free-rangers, the first time this is up in-front of a judge for discovery it will be tossed out.

    Yes, I too am surprised this happened in Canada, but also thankful as it will be surely quashed quickly, not like some other jurisdictions in the US where it might actually have some “legs”.

  11. Erin – you might want to read up on the case before declaring the victim in the McDonald’s case “dumb.” http://lectlaw2.securesites.net/files/cur78.htm In short, the coffee was being kept at a temperature 50 degrees above industry standards (read: scalding) so that the restaurant would not have to brew new pots as often, the victim was not driving at the time (she was a passenger in a stopped car) and she was hospitalized for eight days as a result of suffering third-degree burns over 6% of her body.

  12. “I’m also surprised this is out of Canada. Canadians are supposed to be nice, right?’
    WE used to be like that and suing people was unheard of, but now we too have ambulance-chasing lawyers advertising for business and making our community-life hell, Out neighbourhood annual street parade is no more because they couldn’t get insurance, Nobody is game to hold an informal street party in the local park as the orgainsers need insurance or they might get sued if someone gets stung by a bee,
    Horse-riding schools closed by the dozen when the insurance rates went through the roof. My locL dog club’s fees went from $15 a year to $50 and the list goes on.

    I have tripped fell, been injured, kicked by a horse etc etc, I wouldn’t consider suing unless the other person did something deliberate to harm me and that would be criminal anyway, Life’s accidents, other’s mistakes, thoughtlessness or just plain bad luck? No way. I couldn’t be bothered. and anyway, there but for the grace of God go I

  13. Well this is a telling line from the article:

    “The lawyer for Mills’s parents said Wednesday the lawsuit looks like a father suing his son and a babysitter, but it is actually a dispute between insurance companies.”

    So it’s an insurance company thing, so that honestly makes this a non-story imo. More tabloid ‘in your face’ “OMG LOOK WHAT HAPPENED!” just to get a story?

  14. I hope someone has to reimburse any expenses that the girl has in connection with this lawsuit. I get that it may be an insurance company policy, but it’s totally unfair to this girl, who should be a local hero right now.

    If I were her, the lesson I’d learn would be: never again babysit for people like that. Disgusting.

  15. Will,

    Lots of other reasons to have a lighter, candles, grill, lanterns, campfires, drugs, make blow torches with hairspray.

  16. Michelle — Can you link the article you’re referring to? The one that Roberta linked says nothing of the sort. In fact, it specifically addresses the fact that you can’t technically sue a minor “for monetary gain,” but can deem the minor responsible and have 10 years to actually sue (which means that unless you’re going after an 8-year-old, you can, technically sue a minor for monetary gain, you just have to wait until they’re 18).

    The article Roberta linked also states that the girl was served a claim earlier this week, which indicates that she is, in fact, the one being sued, not an insurance company battle.

    That said, if it was a “dispute between insurance companies,” who/what are the defending insurance company? I’d assume the plaintiff one would be the grandparents’ homeowner’s insurance. The girl’s health insurance? The son’s health insurance? The grandparents own both structures.

  17. Even if it’s between insurance companies, the grandparents have the option, if not obligation, to say publicly, “Stop. Please don’t pursue our son. We don’t support this.”

    Right?

  18. From what I saw on the news last night the grandparents are not sueing at all – the lawsuit comes from their insurance company, “on their behalf”. So they were named in the lawsuit but it came as a surprise to them as much as to anyone.

  19. In Canada, if you try to sue someone and lose, you have to pay not only your own court costs but the person you sued as well. That’s one of the major reasons we dont’ sue up here; you have to be really sure you can win.

    I think I heard of this story as well before Lenore posted it. The insurance company is behind the suing, not the grandparents, and I imagine not much is going to come of it.

  20. I’ve just contacted my Member of Parliament about this situation – here is hoping the politicians can do something about it.

  21. How very sad for the young lady who agreed to babysit.

    There is, natch, a Facebook group for those who think the suit is ridiculous. If you want to join up, just search on her name (in the article linked above in the comments) and it will pop up.

  22. Dragonwolf: Sorry, thought it was the same article:

    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/edmonton/story/2010/05/05/teen-sued.html

  23. Once again we are reminded that we live in the Land of the Sue.

  24. Reminds me of a suit where a husband sued the hospital ER that SAVED HIS WIFE’S LIFE after a failed suicide attempt because in the process of the code, (and saving her life) she ended up with some burns.

    What did he sue for???

    Loss of conjugal relations during her recovery.

    Okay, so what was he going to do if she had succeeded in her suicide attempt?

    (rhetorical question, this is a family site. . . )

  25. The Grandparents do not have to allow the suit to go forward, yet they are.

    I’m not sure about Canada, but judges here can dismiss a case “with prejudice” which bars further suits and often indicates the fact that the court will charge the plaintiff for all court costs. Basically, it’s when the judge decides the case is frivolous.

    Hope that’s what happens!

  26. Clearly they should sue the five-year-old, except the whole ten-years-to-sue/minors-don’t-have-money thing trips things up a little.

  27. Bravo to that babysitter for keeping a calm head in a crisis! Sadly, I’m not surprised about the lawsuit.

    Also, thanks to Robin for pointing out that the ‘frivolous’ McDonalds coffee suit was, in fact, not frivolous at all. I remember reading the case in my husband’s law school text and feeling pretty sheepish about having unfairly assumed the lady was an opportunist. Certainly makes me think twice about passing judgment based only on facts distilled by the media.

  28. Well, if this is the insurance company sueing on behalf of the grandparents, it’s still bad, but a lot less so than we first assumed. Do the grandparents even have a say when the company decides to sue. Can they force their names off the suit?

  29. @Noël and @Robin – Well, you did get me to waste a few minutes reviewing the history of the McDonald’s case and… I still think it was absolutely frivolous and remains a great poster child for everything that is wrong with a litigious society.

    The very fact that millions of other people every day managed to use that same common product, McDonald’s coffee (already – and in my view unnecessarily, since it is stating that which should be obvious to any person intelligent enough to read – carrying a warning label) without causing severe burns is itself evidence that the fault here lies wholly with the user – a 79-year-old woman thick enough to set a cup of hot coffee in her crotch while she attempted to put cream and sugar in, in the confines of a car.

    Of course, this babysitter case is another great example… The thing is, we all like to bemoan the frivolous lawsuits, but we don’t tend to do anything about them. In a democracy, it should be easy. It would be very simple to fix this through legislation, on the state and federal levels. Elect a sufficient number of politicians who are committed to signficiant tort reform, and this problem could be completely solved (and the economic rewards for doing so would be enormous).

  30. It sounds to me like the insurance company paid off for the property and believes that someone else is at fault and is going after those people to recoop the monies paid. Insurance companies don’t sue in their own name – just like you can’t sue the insurance company directly if it refuses to pay after a car wreck; you must sue the owner of the car. Stupid lawsuit altogether.

    As for McDonald’s, sorry David, but you should be able to pour coffee all over your body without suffering 3rd degree burns – minor burns, sure, but not life-altering burns requiring skin grafts. While the part of the body injured in this case may be user-specific, NO beverage should ever be hot enough to require skin grafts if spilt. And a number of people were burned prior to this woman and McDonald’s was repeatedly warned to turn down it’s coffee which is why the punitive damages were so high – to make it something that McDonald’s would register. And this did resolve the problem. McDonald’s bought more expensive beans and turned down the heat on it’s coffee.

  31. @David

    I think you should have wasted a few more minutes. 700 other people had injured themselves from McDonalds’ coffee, many of them suffering third-degree burns like the woman in the case did. The coffee you make for yourself at home is about 140 degrees tops. This was *190* degrees. The woman initially sought just to have her medical bills covered, and only sued when McDonalds’ refused.

  32. I feel so sorry for that babysitter. I know that if this happened to my daugher, she would be crushed.

  33. Unfortunately, in Canada anyway, when an insurance company decides to sue, there is nothing anyone can do about (namely the grandparents). They were probably forced to agree if they wanted their insurance claim to be paid at all.

    This is just another idiot insurance company trying to get their money back (and then some) from the only person that they can find, that isn’t related to the insured.

    >:-(

  34. It really does sound like an Insurance company, this very thing happened to my friend, her Insurance company sued the local volunteer fire dept. Using her name, it was horrid. Very traumatizing for her, and a small community. As for hiring a twelve year old to baby sit. I think it was a smart move on the parents part, they have living children because of that twelve year old. My kids both baby sat at twelve, and we live on a river, surrounded on three sides by woods infested by NATURE! and all it entails. They haven’t lost a kid yet!

  35. Thank God the kids are o.k. Including the baby sitter. Life is much more precious. It would have been worse if there were injuries and the people were sued.

  36. Thanks, Michelle.

    Personally, from reading the comments here about the grandparents not being able to do anything if their insurance wants to sue, I think the grandparents should find a way to go after the insurance company (impersonation, perhaps? maybe fraud?). It seems absolutely ridiculous that a company can sue “on their behalf,” even against their will.

  37. I haven’t read all the replies, and so I don’t know if this came up…But, as it does sound like an insurance company trying to litigate their way out of their obligation to cover damages….Best case scenario they are STRONGLY advising the grandparents….maybe this insurance company’s name should be discovered and a boycott considered.

  38. @David

    So, what, the lady should have just started drinking right away and burned her mouth instead? Even if you think she was silly to hold the coffee that way, (and it’s a fairly common practice), if she hadn’t, and had put it in her mouth instead, at that temperature the damage would probably have been even worse.

  39. @Alice

    I try not to get drawn into off-topic discussions on forums like this, but I will flog the horse one more time: if she had immediately chugged the beverage and scalded her mouth and throat, then I would consider her just as much an idiot, yes. Coffee is normally served hot. It can scald. Everyone knows that. But just in case someone just arrived from another planet, and has never before encountered coffee, the cup says so.

    The point is, we all have to take responsibility for our own mistakes. If I buy a meat cleaver, somehow forget that meat cleavers tend to be sharp, and somehow manage to chop a finger, it is hardly the manufacturer’s fault. If one company’s meat cleavers are even SHARPER than the industry standard, and therefore my misdirected chop went clear through the bone instead of just being a flesh wound, well, that hardly represents negligence on the part of the manufacturer.

    Once again, 30 seconds before this woman got her coffee from the drive-through window, and 30 seconds before that, and simultaneously at 1000’s of McDonalds around the country, other people had bought McDonald’s coffee at the same temperature, and had not scalded themselves. Literally millions of people every day had used an identical product without sustaining injury. That in itself is proof that the causative factor of this woman’s problems was her own negligence. I am not saying that she was the only person ever to scald herself with coffee, but certainly MOST people of normal intelligence and judgment would not have done so. In that sense, this question does tie in with the legitimate Free-Range debate. Just because one time in ten million that a kid is accidentally separated from a care giver at a park, that kid is later found raped and strangled to death in an adjacent forest, does that mean that it is inherently gross negligence to ever allow any child out of your sight for even a moment in public? It is a question of proportion.

    If we had a system, as is present in some other countries, where liability suits were reviewed by a professional judge without the presence of a jury of sympathetic but unscientific laypeople, 99% of these frivolous suits would be dismissed immediately, leaving the justice system to address the comparitively few cases of legitimate negligence.

  40. […] Skenazy has details of a story from Edmonton, […]

  41. Correct me if I’m wrong, but as I recall, McD’s and other places started putting the *HOT* label on their cups **after** that judgment was handed down.

  42. To all of those who wish to expound on the McDonalds vs Stella Liebeck based on the a pro-plaintiff lawyers website, I suggest you drop by

    http://overlawyered.com

    and do a search on Liebeck, Learn the truth at your own risk.

  43. I am going to get a release of liability form to be signed by the parents of the children that my 12 year old baby sits for.

  44. @R Stella Liebeck’s coffee cup did include a warning about the contents being hot (which to my thinking is already pretty silly). The jury, in its wisdom, found that the warning was too small to provide an effective warning.

  45. Good that this suit was dropped.
    I’m with David (and Bumper) on the coffee.
    I want my coffee to be brewed with water at the optimum temperature for flavor extraction, kept in contact with the ground beans for the optimum time, and then served fresh.
    The businesses that do this will be handing me a freshly-poured cup of black coffee that is in the neighborhood of 180F. If they don’t, they are breaking laws (of physics).

  46. I am with the commenters who find the self-serving “debunking” of the McDonald’s lawsuit by the plaintiff’s attorney lobby to be preposterous. Any ten-year-old knows hot coffee will burn you. You simply cannot make good coffee or tea with lukewarm water. I’ve read about the case in detail, and I still say she’s a clumsy fool who deserved what she got. If I sat on the jury, she wouldn’t have won a penny.

  47. The McDonald’s coffee was 170, not 180 or 190 as someone earlier claimed. (Starbuck’s, by way of comparison, was serving at 180 at the time of the McDonald’s lawsuit) And the claim by Liebeck’s attorney that “industry standard,” is 140 degrees is just a lie. For a very thorough discussion, see: http://overlawyered.com/tag/stella-liebeck/

    And mentioning the 700 previous complaints is rather pointlessly out of context if you don’t mention the number of cups of coffee sold. A product that hurts 1 in 24 million people is hardly that dangerous.

  48. Does anyone know which insurance company is suing her? There are a few of us who would like to switch if they happen to be the same one. I mean…isn’t this WHY we get house insurance? Aren’t ALL fires due to some kind of neglegence? What if a child is potty training and starts flushing all kind of stuff down the toilet (like they tend to do) and the toilet backs up and floods the house and there’s water damage? Should we sue the parents for ‘wrongful potty traning’? Oh, what happens if the dog lifts his leg on the christmas tree and the lights short out and cause a spark and the tree ignites…is that pet neglegence and the owners should now be sued by their insurance company and well as PETA?? Do these people not see how absolutely rearded and a**holish they’re being about this? They’ll sue a KID for something beyond her control, but let’s pardon Carla HomoIka!! Let’s give Clifford Olsen his bloody pension!!! Geez, I could go on and on and this can get stupider and stupider and it won’t make a lick of difference because as long as our greedy, de-prioritized government and judicial system continues to walk around with their heads up their a**, it’s just going to get worse and worse and we’re going to end up just like the friggin States!
    But if anyone does know the name of the company…I’m sure A LOT of people would like to know!

  49. It seems to be ridiculous that the insurance company is suing the child. This just puts the insurance companies in the wrong side and light.

    I understand that the principle of subrogation and the right to recover are with the insurance companies, however each situtation is different and the insurance company should appreciate this.

    Thanks for bringing this up, we all need brainstorming.

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