Smith v Leurs

Citation: (1945) 70 CLR 256

N.B - This summary is currently by no means comprehensive.

HCA unanimously dismissed a tort action against a parent whose 13-year-old child had injured another child while engaged in play with a shanghai.

Starke J held that the question whether parents have exercised the care that reasonable prudent parents would have exercised in the control of a child is one of fact having regard to all circumstances of the case.

In the present case the relevant circumstances included the fact that the son had been warned about and was old enough to comprehend the dangers of using a shanghai, as well as the fact that he had disobeyed his father’s instruction not to use the shanghai away from home. The shanghai, moreover, was a plaything which general use had not shown to be particularly dangerous.

To have held the defendant liable in light of these facts would be to impose on parents an unrealistic high standard of control.