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Canadian Case Finds Children Have No Duty to Supervise Elderly Parents Living Independently

Elderlycare Via a post by David Cheifetz on the blog, I came across the Ontario case of Morrison v. Hooper, 2010 ONSC 4394.  Morrison addresses the interesting question of whether adult children have a legal duty to supervise an elderly parent who is living independently. The answer? No.

84-year-old Anna Morrison was crossing a street near her home in Toronto when she was struck by the defendant's car and sustained serious injuries. Notably, at the time of the accident, Ms. Morrison did not live with her son and daughter (who lived in Ottawa and Mississauga, Ontario respectively).

Morrison and her family (her son and daughter) brought a claim against the defendant. The defendant argued among other things that Morrison's son and daughter "failed to properly supervise the conduct of Anna Morrison and the failure to supervise or monitor her activities caused or contributed directly to the accident." The defendant noted that at some point prior to the accident, the children had sought advice from a geriatric psychiatrist about their mother, and that based on that discussion the children should have forced her into undergoing an "assessment" of her condition. Had such an assessment taken place, defendant argued, "the accident may have been avoided as Ms. Morrison might have had more supervision on the evening of the accident."

Judge Wilson, however, was not persuaded by the defendant's argument, ruling that there is no duty in law for a child to supervise an elderly parent who is living independently:

I conclude that an elderly parent living independently from the children is not in a special relationship of vulnerability with the children in a corresponding position of power. Children do not owe a duty to proactively force elderly parents to submit to an unwanted assessment. An elderly person living independently, even with some difficulties, is autonomous, unless judged otherwise by the court after consultation with expert capacity specialists.

The judge stated that "an elderly person’s autonomy is to be respected," and further observed that

To extend a duty of care to children of elderly parents living independently would create chaos in litigation. It would add cost and delay as tactics emerge sidetracking the main focus of the issues as is evidenced by this litigation.

Posted by Bruce Carton on August 16, 2010 at 02:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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