If someone has a guest over with small children, and a child was told politely by the baal bayis not to play with a certain object. The child did not listen and broke the object. The parents were very unresponsive to the warning and the later breakage. It seemed as if the parents did not care. Can I ask the parents to pay for the damage?

Answer:

In spite of their apparent negligence, the parents are not obligated to pay for their child’s damages (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 424:8 and Sema, as based on Bava Kama 87).

According to some authorities, the child himself should try to compensate for the damage after he comes of age (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 343; Taz 2; Mishnah Berurah 9).

Therefore, one cannot make a legal claim for the payment. However, it is certainly proper practice for parents to pay for the child’s damages, because this is socially accepted, and because refraining from doing so is liable to cause discomfort and dispute. Parents can be respectfully asked to pay, or at least to contribute towards the damage, although they are not formally obligated to do so.

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