Canada: Parents — Do You Know What Your Kids Are Up To? You Could Be On The Hook, And You May Not Be Insured

Last Updated: October 28 2015
Article by Belinda A. Bain

Parents may be held liable in connection with acts of their children, such as bullying, if the parents have failed to take reasonable steps to supervise the child. A recent case from the Ontario Court of Appeal highlights that there may not be any coverage under a parent's homeowners policy in such circumstances. 

Under Ontario law, a parent bears no vicarious liability for acts of a child based solely on the parent and child relationship.  However, a parent can be held liable through ordinary principles of negligence, if the parent's failure to supervise or instruct the child caused or contributed to damage caused by the child. In the seminal case of Floyd v Bowers, a father was found liable for damages caused by his 13 year-old son when the boy fired an air rifle at another child, resulting in loss of eyesight in one eye. The Court held that the failure to control or prevent easy access to both the gun and ammunition and the failure to instruct in the proper use of a gun constituted negligence on the part of the 13 year old's parents.

Parental negligence may be established for other acts of children including bullying. In claims against parents for the bullying acts of their children, plaintiffs have pleaded that the parents knew or ought to have known that the child was bullying and failed to investigate, failed to take steps to remedy the bullying, failed to take reasonable care to prevent the bullying, failed to take disciplinary action against their child, and failed to discharge their duty to prevent the impugned conduct.

Bullying was the allegation made in litigation underlying a recent coverage decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal. In Unifund Assurance Company v. DE, 2015 ONCA 423 (and companion case CS v TD Home and Auto Insurance Company, 2015 ONCA 424), the  Court of Appeal  held that an insurer did not have a duty to defend parents under their homeowners' insurance policy in an action stemming from alleged bullying by their grade 8 child. In a unanimous appeal decision, the Court of Appeal overturned the lower level ruling, first by finding that the claims against the parents were not derivative of the intentional tort claim against their daughter, and second by focusing on the particular language of the insurance policy at issue. According to the policy, the insureds would be covered for "unintentional bodily injury or property damage arising out of" personal actions. However, the policy also contained an exclusion that excluded coverage for claims arising from failing to take steps to prevent, amongst other things, abuse or harassment:

We do not insure claims arising from:

7. ...  (b) failure of any person insured by this policy to take steps to prevent sexual, physical, psychological or emotional abuse, molestation or harassment or corporal punishment.

Based on a plain reading of this language, the Court of Appeal determined that the exclusion clause captured the negligence being alleged against the insured parents. As a result, Unifund did not have a duty to defend or indemnify the parents in the underlying litigation. 

Since not all homeowner's policies may contain the same exclusion as that considered in Unifund, this may not be the outcome in all situations. However, insureds with policies containing the same exclusion cannot expect coverage for harm arising from bullying carried out by their children.  In addition, even in the absence of such an exclusionary clause, it must be borne in mind that most homeowners' insurance policies will cover general and special damages, but not punitive or exemplary damages.

In a world in which children and teenagers are living much of their social lives on-line, of particular concern to parents ought to be the spectre of liability in connection with cyber bullying. In Nova Scotia, legislation has been passed (the Cyber-Safety Act, SNS 2013, c 2) which creates a tort of cyber bullying, and holds parents of a cyberbully minor jointly and severally liable for damages awarded to a victim, including general, special, aggravated, and punitive damages. Under this new law, a parent may avoid liability only if he or she can satisfy the court that he or she exercised reasonable supervision over the child at the time of the cyber bullying. It is not unreasonable to expect that parental liability in connection with cyber bullying may also arise under the ordinary principles of negligence set out in the Floyd case, discussed above.

There have not yet  been any cases in Ontario directly addressing parental liability in the context of cyber bullying. However, given the ubiquitous nature of technology and social media, in the writer's view, damages from cyber bullying are as reasonably foreseeable as for other forms of bullying, and aren't likely to be treated any differently at law than other forms of bullying. So parents — take heed — if a Court were to find that you have failed to take reasonable steps to prevent  your child from becoming involved in cyber bulling, you could be found negligent as a result, and find yourself exposed to pay damages. Should your homeowner's policy contain a similar exclusion to that considered in the Unifund case, you may find yourself without any insurance coverage.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Events from this Firm
8 Nov 2016, Seminar, Ottawa, Canada

The prospect of an internal investigation raises many thorny issues. This presentation will canvass some of the potential triggering events, and discuss how to structure an investigation, retain forensic assistance and manage the inevitable ethical issues that will arise.

22 Nov 2016, Seminar, Ottawa, Canada

From the boardroom to the shop floor, effective organizations recognize the value of having a diverse workplace. This presentation will explore effective strategies to promote diversity, defeat bias and encourage a broader community outlook.

7 Dec 2016, Seminar, Ottawa, Canada

Staying local but going global presents its challenges. Gowling WLG lawyers offer an international roundtable on doing business in the U.K., France, Germany, China and Russia. This three-hour session will videoconference in lawyers from around the world to discuss business and intellectual property hurdles.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.