Children spend a lot of their time at school, and parents leave children under the supervision of school staff. When children get hurt, many parents question when the school is liable. In a recent Connecticut premises liability case, the Connecticut Supreme Court recently considered one such case and explained the limits of those cases.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff, an 11-year-old boy, was attending a magnet school in New Haven, Connecticut. After he arrived at school one day, he went to the auditorium to eat breakfast and wait for school to start. A teacher was in the auditorium at the time to supervise students. There were 70 to 75 students in the auditorium that morning. A girl was chasing after one of the plaintiff’s friends with safety scissors in her hand. She dropped the scissors near the plaintiff, and as the plaintiff and another girl bent down to pick up the scissors, the girl lifted the scissors and accidentally cut the plaintiff on the side of his face. The teacher did not see the girl running because he was talking to other students. The plaintiff was soon transported to a hospital for treatment.
In his complaint, the plaintiff alleged that the school failed to properly supervise the students in the auditorium. The case went to trial, and the court found in favor of the plaintiff on the failure to supervise claim and the failure to properly inspect the premises, and it awarded over $50,000 in damages.
Immunity and the “Imminent Harm” Exception in Connecticut
Generally, under Connecticut law, municipalities are immune from lawsuits, unless the claim fails under a certain exception. Connecticut law provides an exception if a municipal officer is negligent in carrying out his or her employment or official duties. However, a municipality is immune from liability if that negligent act or omission requires “the exercise of judgment or discretion as an official function of the authority expressly or impliedly granted by law.” On the other hand, if it is apparent to the public officer that failing to act would likely “subject an identifiable person to imminent harm,” the municipality is liable.
The Court’s Decision
The Connecticut Supreme Court found that in this case, the plaintiff failed to show that it was apparent to the defendants that students running with safety scissors were so likely to cause harm that there was a clear duty to act. The court explained that students were allowed to have safety scissors at school, the teacher had not had any behavioral problems with any of the students in the auditorium, there was no evidence of similar incidents in the past, and the teacher did not see the students running or the safety scissors. Therefore, it was not apparent that any harm was imminent. However, the court explained that in some cases, the school may be liable if it was aware there was a problem before the incident occurred.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer
If you or a family member has been injured, you may be entitled to compensation, even from a public school or another government entity. Brickley Law, LLC represents individuals in New Canaan and surrounding areas in personal injury cases. The dedicated Connecticut personal injury attorneys at Brickley Law understand the laws concerning your case and are prepared to offer you their knowledgeable assistance. When you trust our New Canaan premises liability lawyers to handle your case, you will receive the caring, qualified, and experienced representation that you deserve. Call Brickley Law now at (203) 966-6600.