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Thread: LEGAL: Can A Person Sue On Behalf of Another?

  1. #1
    Hopeless Romantic fedorable1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005

    Question LEGAL: Can A Person Sue On Behalf of Another?

    I'm wondering, as this is an issue in a work of mine, can someone sue on behalf of someone else? For example, if Frank beats up Bob's sister, but the sister won't or can't destify, can Bob still sue/have Frank arrested?

    Or, in the case of my book, can parents have a man arrested/sued for having relations with their (17, legally-underage) daughter? The daughter said she doesn't want to press charges, but can the parents do it anyway since she's not an adult yet?

  2. #2
    There's a difference between suiing someone and pressing charges. A lawsuit is a civil matter, being arrested is a criminal case.

    If someone has had sex with a person under the age of consent in their state, they can be arrested once charges are filed. The parents can do this on their daughter's behalf. Actually, I read just this morning about a man who was arrested for having sex and impregnating his 14-year-old wife --- even though her mother had given consent for them to marry. (It was because they had gone to another state to get married, and the girl was still under the age of consent in her home state).

    I'm not a lawyer, but I would suspect the only way you could file a lawsuit on someone else's behalf would be if they were (a) a minor, (b) mentally incapacitated or (c) dead.

  3. #3
    practical experience, FTW
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    You might google to find the statues for the state you are placing your characters in and sift through to see what you find. You would google "Oregon statutes" or use your state of choice.

    Or go to your local courthouse and inquire at the DA's office just what the procedure would be.

    I think Patti's advice is right on. To act in another's behalf you would have to be legally appointed by the court as their guardian (unless they are your child and of course you would already be their guardian).

    As far as the sexual relations thing, you would turn it in to the DA's office and the state would do the prosecuting, the parents would then have no say in how things proceeded from there.

  4. #4
    practical experience, FTW
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Quote Originally Posted by fedorable1
    can someone sue on behalf of someone else? For example, if Frank beats up Bob's sister, but the sister won't or can't destify, can Bob still sue/have Frank arrested? Or, in the case of my book, can parents have a man arrested/sued for having relations with their (17, legally-underage) daughter? The daughter said she doesn't want to press charges, but can the parents do it anyway since she's not an adult yet?
    First off, as someone else aptly pointed out, the parents don't "bring charges," the DA (District Attorney, or whatever they call it in your area) does. Criminal charges are brought by the government (the DA). All the parents could do is (1) sue (file a civil case) or (2) report the guy to the cops in hopes of getting him arrested and getting the DA to bring charges. As for Bob in your other example, he could call the cops and tell them about anything he witnessed or overheard, and they should at least come out and talk to Bob's sister and Frank to see what happened, but Bob can't sue or bring charges (unless Bob's the DA!).

    As for suing on someone else's behalf, to my knowledge (but I'm not out of law school yet), there is no way to sue on behalf of someone else unless that person has no say in the matter (i.e. is a minor and you're their parent, or lacks legal capacity [severe mental illness etc.] and you're their representative). Even if the person wants to sue, is of age and has legal capacity, you can't sue because THEY have to sue, not you. And if they don't want to sue, you can't sue because, basically, it's none of your business. The issue is called "standing": you can't bring suit unless you have standing to do so, and you only have standing for wrongs that are done to you or to someone you represent (like your child). (When you hear about, for example, a woman suing a car company because her husband was injured in an accident, she's not suing for the injuries to him, she's suing for the consequences of the accident on her: for example, financial losses from taking time off work to help him, "loss of consortium" i.e. her loss of sex and company, and maybe, in really extreme cases, something like intentional infliction of emotional distress on her. She can sue for what the accident did to her; he, if he's alive and mentally intact, has to be the one to sue for what it did to him.)

    So for your book, the parents could possibly sue on behalf of their daughter because she's a minor, but there's really no point, because the problem is the guy HAD actual consent--there was nothing resembling rape here, none of his touching was against the girl's will--so you're going to have a tough time convincing a jury to find in your favor. Depending on how your daughter acts at trial, the jury could just as easily find that you're meddling parents who can't control your daughter. That's not legally significant, but it's still going to matter to a jury: if they don't like you and no overwhelmingly obvious wrong was done, you're going to lose the lawsuit. Big waste of money for nothing.

    But the parents could report the guy to the cops, at which point he'd probably be arrested if they had evidence. But if the daughter's not cooperating, it's going to be harder to get evidence; technically she can be forced to testify, but it's a fact of human nature that no one can force someone to tell the truth if they don't want to. If she lies on the stand and gets caught, you (the parents) may just end up getting your daughter slapped with perjury charges. If she loves or really likes the guy and she understands the legal consequences of underage sex--namely, that her boyfriend might (depending on the state) be declared a sexual predator, forced to register with the police whenever he moves, have a felony record, etc.--she's NEVER going to cooperate and she's going to hate her parents for trying to get her boyfriend in such deep trouble.

    So to sum up, it's possible for parents to report the guy to the cops, who would take it to the DA, who would (if there was sufficient evidence) charge the guy with a felony, but in practical terms it's very difficult unless it actually was rape (i.e. forced sex, so the girl wants him punished). Statutory rape (i.e. underage sex) charges are sometimes brought in "he said/she said" cases where it actually was rape but there's no evidence other than he said/she said, that is, where the guy says "sure, we had sex, but she consented" and she says "no, I didn't!" In those cases, the DA might not bring rape charges because it's almost impossible to win the case, so he/she might bring statutory rape charges because then it doesn't matter if he says she consented, because even if she did she's still too young--so that case is winnable.

  5. #5
    Wibbly-Wobbly. Timey-Wimey.
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Portland, Oregon
    Something else you might want to watch for: 18 is not the age of consent in all locations. It is in many US states, but in others it's lower. Many places it's different for heterosexual and homosexual relations, too.

    If your story takes place, say, in Maine, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania, the girl would have to be 15 for it to be illegal, as the age of consent there is 16. Etc.

    Here's a chart guide I've found:

    And individual state and country links have info about case precedents. For example, I'm reading something now about how in Georgia, two sixteen-year-olds (legal age there) were prosecuted for having sex -- because UNMARRIED SEX was technically illegal.

  6. #6

    Smile Power of Attorney

    When someone is too senile or too injured or too brain damaged to take care of themselves, someone else can take what is called "power of attorney" over them. The idea of power of attorney is that you have the power to do things in their name. Im not sure exactly what powers the power of attorney status gives you, but it might be just the thing you are looking for as a search lead for researching the legalities.

  7. #7


    One may sue for anotehr as follows:
    1. power of attorney-that is as the agent of 0one who has designated the third party to do so usually because they are unable due to mental incompacity to do so themselves;
    2. subrogation-that is becasue they now stand in the shoes of the other an have their rights. Think A pays off B's debt to C. C no longer can go after B but A can. Though it was really a debt owed to someone else.
    3.People can sue certain claims.

    But the bigger issue in all of this is not the right but the ability to prevail. The person whose claim it is is in the best position to testify and give evidence. "Proof" from others is hearsay and admissiblt to be considered by the trier of fact under limited circumstances.

  8. #8
    Hopeless Romantic fedorable1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    On a related note:

    Say the girl gets pregnant (unbeknownst to her parents) several months before her 18th birthday and has the child afterward. At the birth it becomes obvious that her and the guy had relations when she was still 17. Can the parents/DA press charges then if the girl (now an adult) doesn't?
    Last edited by fedorable1; 02-27-2006 at 01:25 AM.

  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW
    Join Date
    Feb 2005


    What it all boils down to is that in order to sue in someone else's behalf, you must have standing. For a brother to sue anyone over a sister getting beat up, the brother would have to be the legal guardian of the sister. and the sister, of course, must either be underage of mentally unable to take care of herself and her needs. If the sister is a capable, legal adult, which is always at least eighteen, it's entirely up to her to sue anyone for anything.

    As for criminal charges, it is often up to the person who has been damaged whether or not to file criminal charges. If they do not, the DA can sometimes do so anyway, but does not have to do so. This is different in different jurisdictions, even within the same state. In some jurisdictons a DA cannot bring charges against anyone if the damaged party refuses to press charges, and cannot refuse if the damaged party does press charges.

    Where I live, the DA usually has the most power and the most responsibility where there is no single damaged party, or when the damaged party is not an individual, etc. When, for example, a company has violated state laws for for this or that.


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