National Post

Wednesday, February 17, 1999

Parents can be held liable for children's crime: B.C. appeal court
$3-million fire

Neal Hall
The Vancouver Sun

The parents of three students accused of causing $3-million in fire damage to a school can be found financially liable, the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.

The appeal court ruling overturned a lower court ruling in the B.C. Supreme Court that found the parents could not be held liable because the teenagers did not attend the school.

John Trustcott, the lawyer acting for the Coquitlam school board which won its appeal, called it a significant ruling. He said the trial judge previously had ruled against the school board, interpreting that Section 10 of the School Act only applied to students who damaged their own school.

The appeal court ruling, he said, made a literal interpretation of the provision of the act, which reads: "If the property of a school is destroyed, lost or damaged by the intentional negligent act of a student, the student and the student's parents are . . . liable to the board in respect of the act of the student."

Mr. Truscott said the question of liability still must be determined at trial in B.C. Supreme Court.

Out-of-court settlements have been reached, he added, so the total damage of $3-million claimed has been reduced.

The lawsuit by the school board stems from a fire at the Roy Stibbs elementary school in Coquitlam, in the Vancouver area, on Dec. 28, 1993.

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