(June 12, 2015) Japan’s Supreme Court ruled on April 9, 2015, that the parents of a boy were not liable for a motorcycle accident caused by a soccer ball that was kicked out of the school grounds onto a street by their son. (Heise 24 (ju) 1948 (S. Ct., 1st petite bench, Apr. 9, 2015) [click Chinese characters beside pdf icon].)
Under article 714 of the Civil Code (Act No. 89 of 1896), a parent of a minor child who has the responsibility to supervise the child is liable for payment of compensation to victims for damages that the child has inflicted. If a parent did not fail to perform his/her obligation or if the damages could not have been avoided even if he/she had not failed to perform his/her obligation, the parent is not liable for the damages. (Civil Code (unofficial trans. Apr. 1, 2009), Ministry of Justice Japanese Law Translation online database.)
The Supreme Court found the following, and held that the parents were not liable:
The boy was practicing kicking into a goal on a school ground and had not intentionally kicked a ball to the street outside the school ground.
There was a 1.3 meter [4′ 3″] high gate that was attached to a fence 10 meters [32′ 9″] behind the goal. There was a 1.8 meter-wide [5′ 11″] storm drain between the fence and street. A bridge connected the school ground and the street. It was not usual that a soccer ball kicked over the goal by mistake would go onto the street. The parents had kept the boy well-behaved. They could not foresee that the boy’s act would cause the accident. (Heise 24 (ju) 1948, supra.)
In the past, parents were held responsible for most accidents caused by children. (Editorial: Supreme Court Showed Parents’ Responsibilities/Scope, KOBE NEWSPAPER (Apr. 16, 2015) (in Japanese).)