No. 119 April Term, 1979, Appeal from the Order in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Civil Division, No. G.D. 77-20244.
Robert D. Barozzini, Pittsburgh, for appellants.
Paul R. Marks, Pittsburgh, for appellees.
Price, Cavanaugh and Watkins, JJ. Cavanaugh, J., files a dissenting opinion.
[ 280 Pa. Super. Page 401]
Appellants take this appeal from an order of the court of common pleas en banc granting appellees' motion for summary judgment. The complaint alleged a cause of action in trespass for injuries to the minor-plaintiff, six years and two weeks old at the time of the accident, caused by the negligent swinging of a wooden stick by the minor-defendant, five years and seven months old at the time. The court granted summary judgment on the ground that the minor-defendant was under the age of seven years and, therefore, conclusively presumed incapable of negligence. Appellants contend that a minor of over five years of age is capable of actionable negligence and that this case should have proceeded to trial to allow a jury to apply the appropriate standard of care and decide the issue of negligence. We disagree and affirm the court of common pleas.
On a motion for summary judgment filed pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. No. 1035, the court must accept as true all well-pleaded facts and consider any admissions of record, First Pennsylvania Bank v. Triester, 251 Pa. Super. 372, 380
[ 280 Pa. Super. Page 402]
A.2d 826 (1977), resolving against the moving party any doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material fact. Lehigh Electric Products Co. v. Pennsylvania National Mutual Casualty Insurance Co., 257 Pa. Super. 198, 390 A.2d 781 (1978); Carollo v. Forty-Eight Insulation, Inc., 252 Pa. Super. 422, 381 A.2d 990 (1977). We are also mindful that summary judgment may only be granted in the clearest of cases. Matson v. Parking Service Corp., 242 Pa. Super. 125, 363 A.2d 1192 (1976); Granthum v. Textile Machine Works, 230 Pa. Super. 199, 326 A.2d 449 (1974).
The issue with which we are confronted in this case is the minimum age below which a child is incapable of acting negligently because he lacks the attention, intelligence and judgment necessary to enable him to perceive risk and recognize its unreasonable character. The obligation to use reasonable care extends to both adults and minors, but the standard against which the acts of a child are measured to determine if they constitute negligent conduct varies from that employed for adults. When measuring the conduct of children, courts depart from the well-known objective test of the care of a reasonable and prudent man, the test generally utilized to judge adult behavior, Gift v. Palmer, 392 Pa. 628, 141 A.2d 408 (1958); Aquadro v. Crandall-McKenzie and Henderson, Inc., 182 Pa. Super. 435, 128 A.2d 147 (1956), and make allowance for immaturity. A child is held to that measure of care that other minors of like age, experience, capacity and development would ordinarily exercise under similar circumstances. Kuhns v. Brugger, 390 Pa. 331, 135 A.2d 395 (1957); Koenig v. Flaherty, 383 Pa. 187, 117 A.2d 719 (1955).
The application of this standard is clarified by the use of several presumptions delineating convenient points to aid in drawing the uncertain line between capacity to appreciate and guard against danger and incapacity: (1) minors under the age of seven years are conclusively presumed incapable of negligence; (2) minors between the ages of seven and fourteen years are presumed incapable of negligence, but the presumption is a rebuttable one that weakens as the
[ 280 Pa. Super. Page 403]
fourteenth year is approached; (3) minors over the age of fourteen years are presumptively capable of negligence, with the burden placed on the minor to prove incapacity. Kuhns v. Brugger, supra. These presumptions were arrived at by analogy to the common-law rule of responsibility for committing crimes, see Commonwealth v. Green, 396 Pa. 137, 151 A.2d 241 (1959); Commonwealth v. Bowes, 166 Pa. Super. 625, 74 A.2d 795 (1950), and were initially applied to measure a child's responsibility for contributory negligence. Parker v. Washington Electric Street Railway Co., 207 Pa. 438, 56 A. 1001 (1904). See Masters v. Alexander, 424 Pa. 65, 225 A.2d 905 (1967); Smith v. Waldman, 193 Pa. Super. 166, 164 A.2d 20 (1960). From the cases in which ...