224 A.2d 63 (N.H. 1966)
Plaintiff’s decedent, a 19-year old minor, was killed when his motorcycle collided with defendant’s car.
A jury found for plaintiff. The trial court charged the jury to apply to plaintiff a standard of care based on the average child of his age, experience, and maturity.
In determining negligence, what standard of care should be applied to a child engaged in an adult activity?
Holding / Rule
Minors are entitled to be judged by standards commensurate with their age, experience, and wisdom only “when engaged in activities appropriate to their age, experience, and wisdom.”
When a minor undertakes an activity normally engaged in by adults, i.e. one that can result in grave danger to the minor and others if the care drops below that of a reasonable and prudent adult, the minor’s conduct should meet the same standards as that of an adult. Applying a lower standard of care would be unrealistic and unfair to others exposed to the danger created by the child’s conduct—automobiles can be dangerous instruments, and people cannot know, for instance, whether an approaching vehicle is being operated by a child, and so cannot protect themselves in the same way as a person observing a child at play. The hazard to the public of applying a lower standard of care would be too great.