A Guardian Ad Litem cannot be charged with the cost of a lost case for the minor they represent. The North Carolina Court of appeals recently addressed the issue of taxing costs against a guardian ad litem appointed to represent a minor child in litigation. First, a minor (someone under 18 years of age or an incompetent) cannot file a lawsuit on their own. They are only allowed to do so through someone appointed as their guardian ad litem or guardian at law. This used to be called the “next friend” doctrine and prevents someone under 18 from contracting or creating a situation that binds themselves. An easy example is when a child is seriously injured in an automobile collision, they must have a guardian ad litem file suit on their behalf for their harms and losses including lifetime injuries. In Stark v. Ford Motor Company, NO. COA09-286-2, the NC COA concluded that the taxing of costs against the guardian ad litem in the absence of a finding of bad faith was an abuse of discretion. Essentially it would not be fair to require a minor child to find someone willing to take the risk of being charged personally with the costs of the court if they lost to file a lawsuit on their own behalf. More interestingly, in the Stark case, the court did not address the appropriateness of charging personally a minor child with the cost of the trial. How can someone who cannot even file their own lawsuit be responsible for what their “next friend” or guardian ad litem decided to do when they were only 2 or 3 years of age? If you have any questions about recovering for your damages, either for yourself or a child here in North Carolina, feel free to contact our office.
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