Court Determines Student Failed to Establish Exception to School’s Government Immunity in Recent Personal Injury Case

Aside from providing students with an education, Washington, D.C. schools have a very important job in ensuring that students are safe during the day. When a school administration fails to take adequate precautions to provide a safe environment for students, and a student is injured as a result, the school may be held civilly liable for the injuries sustained by the student through a Washington, D.C. premises liability lawsuit.

That being said, since schools provide a government function, they may be entitled to official government immunity in some cases. A recent case illustrates how one court analyzed a student’s failure-to-supervise case that was brought against school administration.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a student at the defendant school. One day, the plaintiff was waiting in the school’s auditorium for school to begin with approximately 70 other students. One teacher was assigned to supervise the students as they ate breakfast and waited for the morning’s classes to begin.

The plaintiff noticed one student chasing another student. The girl who was chasing the other girl had scissors in her hand. As the girls approached the plaintiff, the scissors fell to the ground. The plaintiff bent down to pick up the scissors, and one of the girls grabbed them before he could reach them, got up, and in the process of doing so, cut the plaintiff on the side of the face. The supervising teacher did not see the plaintiff get cut because his back was turned as he was supervising other students.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury case against the school, claiming that the school was negligent for failing to provide adequate supervision. The school responded by asserting its government immunity. However, the trial court rejected the school’s assertion of immunity and found in favor of the plaintiff. The school appealed.

On appeal, the court reversed the lower court’s decision and found in favor of the school. The court explained that the school was entitled to immunity because the plaintiff was unable to prove an exception to the general rule that the school is entitled to government immunity.

The plaintiff claimed the “imminent harm to identifiable person” exception, which requires a plaintiff to prove (1) an imminent harm; (2) an identifiable victim; and (3) a public official to whom it is apparent that his or her conduct is likely to subject that victim to that harm. The court acknowledged that the plaintiff was an identifiable victim, but it found that there was no imminent harm.

The court explained that there were no prior disciplinary issues with any of the students involved, and the possession of safety scissors by a student was not against any school rule. The court also noted that a teacher was on-duty supervising the students at the time, and he did not witness the girls chasing each other with the scissors. Thus, the court determined that it was not apparent that the plaintiff was facing imminent harm.

Has Your Child Been Injured While at School?

If you have a child who has recently been injured while at school, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Washington, D.C. personal injury lawsuit. Cases involving injuries at school are highly fact-specific, and while immunity may arise in some situations, it will not be present in all cases. To discuss your case with a dedicated Washington, D.C. slip-and-fall attorney, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today. Calling is free, and we will not bill you for our services unless we can help you obtain the compensation you deserve.

More Blog Posts:

Appellate Court Determines Teacher Was Immune from Liability in Recent Failure-to-Supervise Case, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, February 16, 2018

Court Rejects Insurance Company’s Denial of Golf Cart Injury Claim, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, February 2, 2018

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