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Hypothetical facts

  1. Alice is 17 (a legal minor).
  2. Alice attends the 12th grade at Bob High School (BHS), a California public high school.
  3. BHS loans Alice a laptop to do her school work.
  4. As a condition of receiving the loan of the computer, BHS required Alice’s parents, Carol and David, to sign an agreement accepting financial responsibility for the computer including but not limited to any damage Alice might do to the computer.
  5. While at school, an unknown person steals Alice’s computer.
  6. BHS bills Carol and David for the replacement cost of the computer.
  7. Carol and David take the position that, as a minor, Alice was under the care of BHS (per the doctrine of in loco parentis) when the computer was stolen and, therefore, BHS is liable for the theft.

Questions

  1. Can BHS successfully hold Bob and Carol financially liable for Alice’s stolen computer?

  2. Does the answer depend on the language of the agreement? Or is there a legal principle which prevents BHS from transferring legal liability to Carol and David?

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  • This doesn't come close to answering this, but if they can prove theft they may be able to be reimbursed through their homeowners insurance. If there is any more specific language about the responsibilities please add that, it may depend on how it is worded.
    – Ron Beyer
    Sep 20 '18 at 19:28
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    What's the circumstance of the theft? Left on a table, from locker, from backpack hanging outside classroom, etc. I'm thinking about was it out of Alice's control.
    – mkennedy
    Sep 20 '18 at 20:01
  • I took the liberty of clarifying the title. Feel free tor re-edit it you disagree :-).
    – sleske
    Oct 17 '18 at 8:59
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What physical harm has Alice suffered that would trigger in loco parentis? The doctrine does not extend to economic harm such as that caused by the loss of the computer.

The parents are responsible, under contract, for the loss subject to any contributory negligence (up to 100%) from the school.

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  • "The doctrine does not extend to economic harm" ... Is that question settled case law? If not, could the argument be made that the law has set forth precedent to extend the doctrine to economic harm based upon the child being a minor and parens patriae? Oct 17 '18 at 18:55

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