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Can My Kid Sue Me?

Watching any typical family in the throes of teenage rebellion, it is not hard to imagine either parent or child going as far as filing a lawsuit to vent their frustrations. But Maryland remains one of a few states that continue to recognize the doctrine of Parent-Child Immunity — which is actually applied not to mere bickering, but to cases where parent or child might have grounds to sue one another, if not for their familial ties.

Adopted by the state in 1930, parent-child immunity is described in court documents as a broad, reciprocal immunity under which parents and children are barred from asserting any claim for civil redress against each other.  The reasoning is that the law strives to preserve the harmony, integrity, and parental authority necessary for a family unit — along with family finances that could be eaten up by litigation. It also purports to prevent fraud and collusion by family members against third parties such as insurance companies.

Maryland clung steadfastly to the doctrine for many years, even as other states —including Mississippi, the first state to recognize parent-child immunity way back in 1891 — eliminated it from their statutes. Finally, in 2001, the Maryland legislature passed a new law allowing the doctrine to be bypassed in cases of wrongful death, personal injury or property damage arising out of an automobile accident. Opponents of parent-child immunity believe it was a step in the right direction. But, like family battles over everything from bedtime to borrowing the car, we can expect the fight to go on for quite some time.

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