When we send our children to school, we trust that those in charge (teachers, principals, coaches and aides) are going to properly supervise them in order to minimize their chance of injury. This is especially true when they are engaged in activities that pose a foreseeable risk. This is known as a duty of care.
Lack of supervision in and of itself doesn’t necessarily establish liability. Plaintiffs in these cases have to show that this factor was a proximate cause of the child injury. In many situations, it comes down to the individual. This is why the level of supervision required for a 6-year-old would be much higher than it would be for a high school student.
In a recent case out of Connecticut, a mother is suing the school district, a gym teacher and a second-grade teacher after the child allegedly suffered serious injury to her arm during gym class while being directed to perform a gymnastics move.
According to the New Haven Register, the complaint alleges the child was told to perform a handstand. This is a maneuver in which a person balances on his or her arms with feet in the air or up against a wall. It’s not clear from the report whether the child had any extensive training or instruction on how to properly and safely perform this maneuver. However, the mother alleges the child rolled over onto one arm on an area of the floor that wasn’t equipped with padded mats.
The complaint alleges the school’s failure to make sure that mats were on the floor where students would be exercising or could foreseeably fall resulted in unreasonable risk of injury to the child. The school allegedly did not develop or maintain the level of safety procedures concerning instruction, supervision and safety of the small children involved in the class.
As a result, it is alleged the child required surgery on her left arm and the arm is permanently disfigured. Her range of motion is restricted and the girl reportedly has limited use of the arm.
In cases where a child injury is suffered at school, potential plaintiffs need to understand that public schools (and many private schools that receive federal funding) are considered government entities, and are therefore afforded a number of legal protections. One of those is sovereign immunity, which makes schools (as a government entity) and their employees immune from litigation. However, Florida law does allow some types of civil action against school districts when a child is injured. Still, plaintiff procedures for these actions can be tedious, and they must be done correctly or else face dismissal of the lawsuit.
F.S. 768.28 spells out Florida’s law on waiver of sovereign immunity in tort actions and the procedural requirements for plaintiffs. Just as an example, while personal injury claims have a statute of limitations of four years in Florida (meaning plaintiffs have four years from the date of the cause of action in which to file a lawsuit), but the claim has to first be presented – and denied – by the appropriate state agency.
Additionally, the maximum amount of damages in such cases is $200,000 per individual.
If your child has 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.
Lawsuit: New Haven student sustained injury during gym class, Jan. 25, 2016, By Esteban L. Hernandez, The New Haven Register
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Intern Injury Compensation a Thorny Legal Question, Jan. 23, 2016, Palm Beach Child Injury Lawyer Blog