MORRISTOWN, NJ -- A high school student suing her parents for living and school tuition costs has lost her first round in court.
Rachel Canning, 18, sued her parents after claiming they kicked her out of their home last year. Her mom, Elizabeth, and dad, Sean, a former police chief, said their daughter left home because she didn’t want to follow house rules.
On Tuesday, a New Jersey judge denied the teen’s request for emergency financial assistance during a court proceeding that brought her together with her parents for the first time since October. The two sides did not exchange any words, although at times Rachel’s parents wept.
Rachel, an athlete, cheerleader and honor roll student, alleges she was verbally and physically abused by her parents before they kicked her out. She is now living with the family of a close friend. Her lawsuit seeks payment for current living expenses and tuition for the private high school she attends now and for school costs once she attends college this fall.
Elizabeth and Sean Canning have denied all claims of abuse. Instead, they say their daughter got upset after they laid down the law following a suspension from school, incidents of drinking and after dating someone they didn’t like.
On Tuesday, a New Jersey judge appeared to side with the parents, when he denied Rachel's request for emergency child support.
“Do we want to establish a precedent where parents live in constant fear of establishing basic rules of the house?” said Morristown Superior Court Judge Peter Bogaard. “Since if they institute a rule that Junior doesn't like, Junior can move out. He can move in with another family, he could sue for child support, attorney's fees, car, cell phone, and a few hundred grand in college.”
Rachel Canning, left, in court as her parents, Elizabeth and Sean (standing), look on in Morris County Superior Court in Morristown, N.J. The judge recommended the family seek counseling before they return for their next scheduled court appearance in April.
The case generated overwhelming response on TODAY’s Facebook page, where viewers were asked Wednesday whether teens should be allowed to sue their parents.
Nearly everyone found the lawsuit frivolous, with numerous people describing the teenager as a “spoiled brat.” One person responded with only a picture of Veruca Salt, the pampered, overindulged girl from the movie, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”
Greg Vincent called Rachel “a perfect example of the entitlement mentality of the new generation.”
Martha Beatty Kiel Beachell said the lawsuit is a reflection of the times.
“Due to changes in laws, kids have entirely too much power now days. When I was a kid, we obeyed our parents and other adults & had respect for them. Not in this day and time,” she said.