Traditionally, the legal doctrine of “parental immunity” prohibited a minor, unemancipated child from suing his or her parent for personal injuries under any circumstances. The purpose of the parental immunity doctrine was to preserve family harmony, family assets, and parental authority over the care, discipline, and control of children. All states have limited the doctrine of parental immunity, though the law varies by state. Generally, a minor, unemancipated child cannot sue a parent for personal injuries if the child’s injury was caused by the parent’s negligence and the negligence occurred in the context of the parent-child relationship. A minor, unemancipated child may sue a parent for personal injuries if the child’s injury was caused by the parent’s intentional act, such as physical or sexual abuse.
In some states, the doctrine of parental immunity applies to adoptive and foster parents.