The child was left in serious condition, and the teen driver of the car ticketed for passing a stopped school bus. But what, if any, liability did the school have in the case?
Fort Myers child injury lawyers know that a similar question was raised recently in New York in the case of Williams v. Weatherstone, heard by the New York Court of Appeals. The court relied heavily on the issue of control. That is, the court wanted to know what degree of control the school had over the student at the time of the crash.
Obviously, a strong case for an injury award could be made if the incident occurs on school grounds, at a school function or in a vehicle driven by a school worker. Bus stops, though, are a gray area. The issue is what degree of control does a school have or should a school have for students in these locations.
For example, a student walking to the bus stop in the morning may not be directly in control of the school. But if the district plans bus stop routes, and a route requires a child to cross a busy and potentially dangerous intersection, one could argue that the district had a duty to protect the child from such an obvious danger with better planning.
The Williams case involved serious injuries sustained by a 12-year-old middle school student with disabilities. She was struck by a vehicle before an approaching school bus stopped to pick her up. According to the court records, the bus driver was on a new route and accidentally passed the child as she waited. Upon realizing the mistake, the driver pulled into a nearby parking lot to turn around. As she did so, she heard a crash behind her. The student had attempted to catch up to the bus and was struck by a vehicle when she entered the roadway.
The car driver was cited for failure to keep her windshields clear. The girl’s mother sued the school district, asserting a claim of negligence. The school countered that it had no duty of care to a child not within its physical care or custody. The trial court sided with the district, and the appellate court ultimately affirmed. It’s worth noting, however, in the appellate court’s discussion of the case that numerous instances were offered in which children not directly in the custody of the school are still seen to be under its control. The aforementioned example of bus stop routes is one.
Another involved a second-grader who was hit by a truck and seriously injured while crossing the road where his school was situated. There were no sidewalks on the road, no traffic signals and no crosswalks to aid students in crossing. The school was aware of this hazard, as evidenced by the fact that it required students who walked home to wait until all buses had left, so there wasn’t a chance a child would be struck by a bus. Although the child was technically off school property, the district was held liable for the child’s injuries.
If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at 888-751-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.
Williams v. Weatherstone, May 13, 2014, New York State Court of Appeals
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