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San Jose State University LIBR 220-01 Libraries and the Law
School of Library & Information Science Mary Minow

Legal QuestionsBibliography
What level of responsibility does the library have to care for children abandoned by their parents? What I mean is what are library staff supposed to do with kids who were dropped off by the parents in the morning when the library opened and are not there to pick up their children when the library closes? Sometimes you see small kids ages 5-8 at the library by themselves late at night, especially during the summer. Iona Derman

Back to List of Legal Questions To: Jenny Flanders From: Iona Derman Re: Patron Inquiry

Question: What level of responsibility does the library have to care for children abandoned by their parents? What I mean is what are library staff supposed to do with kids who were dropped off by the parents in the morning when the library opened and are not there to pick up their children when the library closes? Sometimes you see small kids ages 5-8 at the library by themselves late at night, especially during the summer.

Encyclopedic Resources: A good place for a non-attorney patron to start would be an encyclopedic resource like Cal Jur 3d, Witkin, Am Jur 2d, CJS and ALR. It might also be helpful to have Black's Law Dictionary handy in order look up unfamiliar legal terminology. Relevant subject headings and sections include the following:

  1. 35 Cal Jur 3d (Rev) Government Tort Liability 51: Recreational property
  2. Id. at 54: In general; public school and school district activities
  3. 5 Witkin (9th ed.) Government Liability: In General 126 (3): Failure to Supervise
  4. Id. at 126 (4) Distinction: Unforeseeable Independent Acts of Students
  5. Id. at 127 (4) Repudiation of Immunity: Doctrine in California
  6. 5 Witkin (9th ed.) Government Liability: California Public Entities 129: Adoption of the Tort Claims Act
  7. Id. at 133: Liability under the Tort Claims Act
  8. 57 Am Jur 2d Municipal Corporations 301-304 (b) Liability for Injuries or Damage in Particular Buildings or Areas
  9. Id. at 301 Public Libraries (interesting for treatment in other states, no CA cases noted)
  10. 63 CJS Municipal Corporations 907 (b) Liability Rule: "In some jurisdictions municipal corporations are liable for injuries caused by the negligence of their officers, agents, and employees . . . ." (p. 314)
  11. 34 ALR 4th Student Injury - Teacher Liability 1 (a) Scope: State and federal cases in which the courts have discussed or decided the circumstances under which a public school teacher may be held personally liable in the injury of a student. (p. 233)
  12. 35 ALR 4th Student Injury - Nonteachers 5 View that employees are entitled to no immunity: "The immunity of a university board of regents from liability for negligence of its servants was held . . . not to extend to a servant, in this case a physician employed . . . in the infirmary." (p. 337)

Digests:

  1. ALR 2d Digest Municipal Corporations 216 Injuries to children (Annotations)
    • (a) Liability for injury to or death of child caused by cave-in or landslide (28 ALR 2d 195)
    • (b) Liability of municipal corporation for injury to children by fire (27 ALR 2d 1194)
    • (c) Liability of municipality for drowning of child on premises (8 ALR 2d 1254)
    • (d) Liability of municipality for injury caused by cut or puncture (47 ALR 2d 1053)
    • (e) Liability of municipality for injury to child caused by burning (42 ALR 2d 949)
  2. 33 Cal D 2d Municipal Corporations
    • (a) 851 Parks and public squares and places: Cal. App. 1979. "Bicyclist who was using city park property for recreational purposes at a time when it was closed to the public with no supervisory personnel present . . . could not recover from the city for injuries . . ." (p. 269)
    • (b) 855 Contributory negligence of person injured Cal. App. 1955. " A child injured accidentally on public playground cannot recover for his injuries in absence of proof that he was injured as result of dangerous or defective condition of playground." (p. 277)

Statutory Resources: A brief LEXIS search revealed the following statutory resources

  1. Tort Claims Act: Claims and Actions Against Public Entities and Public Employees. Liability of Public Entities and Public Employees (Cal. Gov. Code 810 et seq.)
  2. Abandonment and Neglect of Children (Cal. Pen. Code 270 et seq.)
  3. Parent and Child Relationship (Cal. Fam. Code. 7822 et seq.)

West's Annotated CA Codes

CAL. Gov. Code Dangerous Conditions of Property 830.2 Minor, trivial or insignificant nature of risk: "A condition is not a dangerous condition within the meaning of this chapter if the trial or appellate court, viewing the evidence most favorably to the plaintiff, determines as a matter of law that the risk created by the condition was of such a minor, trivial or insignificant nature in view of the surrounding circumstances that no reasonable person would conclude that the condition created a substantial risk of injury when such property or adjacent property was used with due care in a manner in which it was reasonably foreseeable that it would be used." (p. 309)

Practice Guide: California Government Tort Liability Practice (CEB, 1980)

  1. Dangerous Conditions of Public Property 3.87 Public Employee Liability, Defenses, and Immunities: "Government Code 840-840.6 provide the conditions of liability of public employees for injuries caused by dangerous conditions of public property. It is expressly declared in Govt C 840 that, 'except as provided' in these sections, public employees are not liable for dangerous conditions . . . the general rules for public employee liability are similar, but not identical to those applicable to public entities." (p. 415)
  2. Id. at 398
    • (2) (a) Negligent Failure to Protect Against Dangerous Condition: Govt C 840.
    • (2) (b) An employee of a public entity may be held liable for a dangerous condition of public property when the employee had the duty, and capability to protect against the danger, but failed to do so . . . . (p. 422)

Case Law:

  1. Forgnone v. Salvador Union Elementary School District (1940): Failure to supervise. The negligence could consist of lack of proper supervision of activities of children during lunch or recreation periods when it might reasonably been expected that dangerous scuffling would take place. (See Encyclopedic Resources 3 above)
  2. Moore v. City of Torrance (1979) 166 Cal. Rptr. 192 (See Digests 2(a) above)
  3. Farrell v. City of Long Beach (1955) 283 P. 2d 296: (See Digests 2(b) above)
  4. Mathews v. City of Cerritos, et. al. (1992) 2 Cal. App. 4th 13552: Child, by his guardian ad litem, brought action against city for personal injuries suffered in bicycle accident in city park. (See West's Annotated CA Codes above)
  5. Longfellow v. County of San Luis Obispo (1983) 144 CA 3rd 379 (See Practice Guide 1 above)
  6. Van Kempen v. Hayward Area Park, Recreation & Park District (1972) 23 CA 3rd 822 (See Practice Guide 2 above)
  7. Davie v. Regents of University of Cal (1924) 66 Cal. App. 689 (See Practice Guide 2 above)

Law Review Articles: The following articles were found on LEXIS:

  1. Police Officers' Duty to Rescue or Aid: Are They Only Good Samaritans, 72 Calif. L. Rev. 661 (1984) (authored by Lisa McCabe).
  2. The End of Innocence: The Effect of California's Recreational Use Statute on Children at Play, 32 San Diego L. Rev. 857 (1995).
  3. California Legislative and Judicial Standards on Child Abandonment, 53 LA. BJ. 239.

    Back to List of Legal Questions Last Updated: October 15, 1998