The decision handed down on 19 February 1997 by the Cour de cassation changes the nature of the parents liability for the harm caused by a child of theirs who is a minor living at home with them. Whereas until now their liability was based on a presumption of fault which they could rebut on proof of the absence of any fault in the upbringing or supervision of the child, it is now an instance of strict liability imposed upon them, thus strengthening the guarantee of compensation for victims.
In the specific case, a young boy who was out cycling collided with a moped when he suddenly emerged onto a main road. The driver of the moped, who was injured, sought compensation for his injury from the boy's father, as the person civilly responsible for him, and from his insurer. When the trial court allowed the claim, the father of the child challenged its decision for refusing to consider whether it was true that he had not committed any default of supervision so that he could rebut the presumption of liability. Breaking with its earlier case law, the Cour de cassation dismissed this challenge, however, and concluded that only force majeure or the fault of the victim could free the parents of the strict liability imposed on them as a result of the damage caused by their minor child.
This decision, which thus sanctions a new objective liability, detached from any notion of fault, is analysed in the following commentaries from the points of view of Greek, Swiss, Belgian and German law.European Review of Private Law