Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a Connecticut sports injury case that required the court to determine if the school that was named as a defendant in the case was entitled to government immunity. Ultimately, the court concluded that the alleged act of negligence pleaded by the plaintiff involved a discretionary duty, so government immunity did apply. As a result, the plaintiff will not be permitted to seek compensation for the injuries sustained by her son.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff’s son broke his leg while playing soccer in gym class. At the time of her son’s injury, the class was being taught by a substitute teacher, and none of the students were required to wear shin guards.
The plaintiff filed a Connecticut personal injury lawsuit against several defendants, including the town where the school was located, the school board, the principal of the school, and the substitute teacher. The plaintiff claimed that the school’s failure to provide shin guards was negligent and that this negligence caused her son’s injuries. In support of her claim, the plaintiff presented the school’s curriculum guide, which stated that students should “wear shin guards for additional protection.”
The school officials disputed the case, arguing that any alleged negligence on their part was part of a discretionary duty and was protected by government immunity.
Government Immunity Generally
As a general rule, state and local governments are entitled to immunity from lawsuits against the entity or government employees. However, under Connecticut law, certain claims are permitted to proceed against government entities. Relevant to this case are claims that are based on a violation of a ministerial duty. A ministerial duty is one that is commanded by a rule or statute, such that there is no exercise of discretion.
The Court’s Decision
In an attempt to get around the defendants’ assertion of government immunity, the plaintiff claimed that the suggestion that students “should wear shin guards for additional protection” created a ministerial duty on the part of school officials to provide all students with shin guards.
The court rejected the plaintiff’s argument, explaining that in order for the court to find a ministerial duty exists, there must be a “clear and unequivocal” foundation giving rise to the duty. Here, the suggestion that students should wear shin guards was taken from a curriculum guide that was presented to teachers to use as a resource, rather than a set of strict rules that must be followed. The court also noted that the heading at the top of the page where the suggestion was located stated: “Safety Guidelines.” The court explained that a ministerial duty requires more than the imposition of a “guideline.”
Has Your Child Been Injured in a School Activity?
If you have a child who was recently injured while at school or while engaging in a school-sponsored activity, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. While it is likely that the issue of government immunity may come up, it by no means is a certain bar to your recovery. Brickley Law routinely handles cases brought against government entities and officials, and she understands what it takes to get around government immunity. She understands the nuances of Connecticut personal injury law as it pertains to government entities, and she applies her knowledge to leverage her clients’ position in hopes of a favorable settlement. If a fair settlement is not available, Attorney Brickley is not afraid to take your case to trial. Call 203-599-3600 to schedule a free consultation. Attorney Brickley represents accident victims in New Canaan, Wilton, Norwalk, Darien, and all of Fairfield County, Connecticut.