In a split decision, the Virginia Supreme Court decided to reinstate and send back to Henrico County Circuit Court (the trial court) a wrongful-death case in which a fourteen-year-old girl died in an automobile wreck. Jaimee Kellermann died while visiting a former school friend in Henrico County, Virginia in December 2004 after Paul and Paula McDonough, the parents of the friend, according to the suit, failed to maintain a promise that Jaimee would not be allowed to ride in a car driven by a juvenile. According to the suit, Jaimee’s father warned, "No boys with cars." The McDonoughs allowed their daughter and Jaimee to ride in the car with a seventeen-year-old boy who had a reputation for recklessness. The carload of teenagers subsequently crashed into a tree while traveling at a high rate of speed, which killed Jaimee.
The Henrico judge previously dismissed the suit seeking $15 million in damages, ruling that the responsibility of the parents overseeing the guest did not extend to the circumstances alleged in the suit. The state Supreme Court, however, stated parents have the broad duty to ensure the safety of a juvenile guest, even when harm comes to that guest from a third party outside the home. The decision argues that ignoring a broader duty diminishes liabilities and may lead to “absurd results”; if the supervisory responsibility of parents is not broad enough to cover guests, parents would have no liability even in instances in which children play in the street and are injured, or in which a death results from children playing with a loaded gun. The trial is expected to go to court sometime next year.