Chapter 11 Cases

Intentional Interference

Spears v. Jefferson Parish School Board (1994): A Louisiana appellate court held a school district liable for damages in a case where a physical education teacher played a trick on male kindergarten student by leading the student to believe that one of his classmates had hanged himself.  The student plaintiff was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, separation anxiety, and social phobia disorder.  The district was held liable for $100,000 in general damages, $2160 for future therapy, and $5,000 to each parents for loss of consortium (loss of companionship, affection, etc., of the child).

Strict liability

Fallon v. Indiana Trail School (1986):  An Illinois appellate court held that a student was not entitled to damages for spinal injuries suffered while performing a "front-drop" on a trampoline.  In holding that the school and its PE teachers were not "strictly liable," the court concluded that a trampoline is not an "abnormally dangerous instrument" and that the normal use of a trampoline is not an "ultrahazardous activity."

Elements of negligence

Brown v. Tesack (1990):  The Louisiana Supreme Court held that the school board could be held liable for damages for injuries suffered by a student when a can of duplicating fluid that the student had stolen from a dumpster outside the school building was ignited and burned the student.  The court held that the school board had acknowledged in policy its duty to properly dispose of the fluid and had breached this duty by disposing of the fluid in the dumpster.

Brownell v. Los Angeles Unified School District (1992): A California appellate court refused to hold the LAUSD liable for the gang-related shooting of one of it's high school students immediately after school.  The shooting occurred off-campus near the school. The court relied on evidence that the school took reasonable precautions to minimize gang-related problems and that there was no indication that a shooting would occur that day to hold that the shooting was not a "reasonably foreseeable" event under the circunstances.

Johnson v. School District of Millard (1998): The Nebraska Supreme Court upheld a damage award of over $20,000 in a case where a first grade child was injured playing "London Bridges" in music class.  The court noted that the students had just been instructed in playing the game, that the injured child was the first child to be rocked back and forth, and that the trial court's determination that a reasonable teacher would have foreseen the injury and that the injury was the proximate cause of the teacher's failure to supervise was not clearly wrong.

Richardson v. Corvallis Public School District No. 1 (1997): The Montana Supreme Court affirmed a grant of summary judgment in favor of a school district in a case where a parent was injured when slipping on a snow-packed surface when leaving the school building.  The held that the school district exercised ordinary care in making its premises reasonably safe; whether the premises were safe is a question of fact, and the school district could be held liable only if it should have anticipated the harm that might ensue from open and obvious dangers.

Defenses for negligence

Stevens v. Chesteen (1990): The Alabama Supreme Court held that a physical education teacher's alleged brief absence from a touch football game was not a breach of duty that proximately caused the student plaintiff's injury.  The student had previously undergone knee surgery and was observing the football game when he was run into by a ball carrier, causing further injury.  The court held that the student plaintiff could not produce any evidence that the injury would not have occurred even if the teacher was properly supervising the activity.

Simonetti v. School District of Philadelphia (1982):  The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the school district was not negligent as the result of the momentary absence of one of its teachers from her classroom.  The teacher was supervising the return of her students from recess and was standing at her door when one of three students who had been detained from recess tripped and propelled a pencil into the eye of Simonetti.  The court said that the teacher could not be in two places at once.

Hutchison v. Toews (1970):  An Oregon appellate court held that a chemistry teacher was not liable for damages to a student who suffered injuries as a result of shooting a pipe cannon made with chemicals his friend had stolen two years earlier from an open chemicals room adjacent to chemistry class.  Hutchison and his friend Brown were in the "explosives business," ordering a how-to catalog from a mail order firm.  As such, the court held that the boys knew of the risk and were thus contributorily negligent.

Hammond v. Board of Education of Carroll County (1994): The Maryland Court of Special Appeals held that the school board could not be held liable in damages for injuries suffered by a female football player who was severely injured in a scrimmage.  The court held that the student assumed the risk of the activity and would not accept the plaintiff's argument that the board's failure to warn supported a negligence claim agains the board.

Wagenblast v. Odessa School District (1988):  The Washington Supreme Court held that the school district's practice of requiring parents to sign a release exculpating the school district from liability as a condition of participation in extracurricular activities violates public policy.

Educational malpractice

Donahue v. Copiague Union Free School District (1979):  The New York Court of Appeals held that a student's claim of educational malpractice and his seeking of $5,000,000 to redress his injury was not an actionable tort.