Articles Posted in Governmental Liability

Published on:

Earlier this month, the Georgia Court of Appeals issued a written opinion in a wrongful death case brought by the parents of a young boy who died after he fell while the teacher was out of the classroom. In the case, Barnett v. Atlanta Independent School System, the court determined that a teacher’s decision related to the control and supervision of students is a discretionary one that is entitled to immunity.

ClassroomThe Facts of the Case

In October 2008, Antoine Williams, a seventh-grade student, fell on the floor while horse-playing with another student. Williams’ teacher was not in the classroom at the time and did not return until approximately 30 minutes after Williams’ fall. Upon her return, the teacher called 911, and Williams was taken to the hospital, but sadly Williams died due to a loss of blood.

After the accident, the school’s principal conducted an investigation into the accident. When asked, the teacher initially told the principal she was in the room when Williams fell after complaining of a bloody nose. However, that was later shown to be a false statement, and the teacher admitted to not being in the room.

Continue reading →

Published on:

Earlier this month, a New York appellate court issued an interesting opinion involving a plaintiff’s late-filed case against a school district. In the case, Newcomb v. Middle Country School District, the court held that the plaintiff should have been allowed to file his claim after the initial deadline had expired because he had good reason for the late filing, and the defendant did not suffer substantial prejudice.

School SignThe Facts

The plaintiff’s 16-year-old son was struck by a hit-and-run driver as he was crossing the street near a school. The driver was not immediately arrested, but the plaintiff did report the accident to the school board. After the driver’s subsequent arrest, the plaintiff attempted to obtain the police department’s criminal investigation file but was prevented from doing so because the case against the driver was still open.

Nine months after the accident, the police department’s file was turned over to the plaintiff. In the file were pictures of the accident scene. Specifically, there were pictures of a sign that may have obstructed a motorist’s view of pedestrians where the plaintiff’s son was struck. The sign was on school property, but it had been taken down in the time between the accident and the trial.

Continue reading →

Published on:

Last month, an appellate court in Connecticut issued a written opinion in a car accident case brought by an injured high school student and his parents against the school administrators at the teen’s school. In the case, Strycharz v. Cady, the court was tasked with determining whether the school’s administrative staff was protected from legal liability under governmental immunity. Ultimately, the court determined that most of the administrative staff was immune from legal liability, but a valid question existed regarding whether the assistant principals were protected.

Parking LotThe Facts of the Case

Strycharz was a student at Bacon Academy, a public school with bus service throughout the local community. On the day in question, Strycharz rode the bus to school but upon exiting the bus did not proceed directly into the building. Instead, he and a friend decided to go across the street to smoke a cigarette before beginning the school day. On his way across the street, Strycharz was struck by another student’s car. He suffered a serious injury as a result and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver, the school administrators, and several other town officials.

Before the case reached trial, the school administrators asked the court to dismiss the case against them, based on the fact that they were government officials carrying out a discretionary duty. Specifically, they claimed that it was up to them to determine how to protect students coming to and from school, and since the duty was discretionary, government immunity attached, making them immune from legal liability. The court noted that all of the administrators except for the assistant principals had a discretionary duty and dismissed the case against those defendants. Regarding the assistant principals, the court held that there was a ministerial duty to ensure the safe travel of students to and from the school bus into the school, but the duty was fulfilled by the assistant principals’ actions.

Continue reading →

Published on:

Earlier this month, a Michigan appellate court issued a written opinion in a government liability case arising from uneven pavement that allegedly caused the plaintiff to trip and injure herself. In the case, Kozak v. City of Lincoln Park, the court determined that the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to the court to prevent dismissal at the summary judgment stage.

HighwayThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff filed this negligence lawsuit after she tripped and fell while crossing a street in Lincoln Park, Michigan. Evidently, as she was approaching the middle point of the roadway, there were two concrete slabs that were not perfectly lined up, leaving a three-inch elevation differential.

In a pre-trial motions hearing, the defense asked the court to dismiss the case, based on the immunity that government agencies have when carrying out government functions. In response, the plaintiff cited a state statute that specifically exempts the maintenance of a highway from governmental immunity. This “highway exception” requires governments in control of roadways in the jurisdiction to ensure that they are “reasonably safe and convenient for public travel.” The exception also creates a cause of action against the government agency for anyone injured as a result of the government’s failure to comply with the requirements.

Continue reading →

Published on:

Earlier this month, a California court issued an opinion in a case involving the family of a teenage boy who died when he was involved in a skateboarding accident. In the case, Bertsch v. Mammoth County Water District, the court held that the plaintiff’s case against several defendants was properly dismissed below because the teenage boy assumed any risks inherent in the “dangerous activity” of skateboarding.

SkateboardThe Facts of the Case

The father of the deceased boy took his two sons out for a trip to a friend’s cabin in Mammoth County, California. The two boys were out skateboarding in the few minutes they had before they were to meet their father to go rock climbing. On their way to meet their dad, the two teens were traveling up and down hills on their skateboards. They were not performing any tricks but were traveling at a “pretty fast” speed.

Sadly, as one of the boys was riding down a steep hill, his skateboard hit a small gap between the pavement and a manhole cover. This caused the boy’s skateboard to come to a stop, and it ejected the boy off the board. When he landed on the pavement, he struck his head, resulting in a traumatic brain injury. He died a short time later from his injuries.

Continue reading →

Published on:

The Supreme Court of the State of Washington recently made a ruling in a motorcycle accident case that could result in the county where the accident occurred being held legally accountable for the plaintiff’s injuries based upon overgrown bushes at an intersection where the accident took place. The plaintiff’s complaint, which had previously been dismissed at the trial level, alleged that the municipality failed to maintain the roadway in a reasonably safe condition to allow motorists stopped at the stop sign to see oncoming traffic and prevent an accident.

sri-lanka-road-1331287Based on the court’s recent ruling, the plaintiff may be entitled to receive damages from the government entities for the injuries he suffered when another motorist turned in front of him and collided with him at the intersection.

A Motorcyclist Is Hit and Seriously Injured After A Motorist Failed to See Him While Turning onto the Highway

The accident which injured the plaintiff in the case of Wuthrich v. King County occurred at the intersection of a smaller road and a highway in King County, Washington. Drivers on the smaller road were controlled by a stop sign, though motorists on the highway had the continuous right of way through the intersection. On June 20, 2008, the plaintiff, who was driving a motorcycle on the highway, was hit by another driver as that driver turned left onto the highway from the smaller road after stopping at the stop sign.

Continue reading →

Published on:

Earlier this month, the United States Supreme Court handed down an opinion discussing the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and how it can prevent an accident victim from recovering compensation for their injuries in some personal injury cases filed against foreign entities.

train-1450658OBB Personenverkehr AG v. Sachs

In the case, OBB Personenverkehr AG v. Sachs, the plaintiff was a woman who had purchased a Eurorail train pass from a U.S.-based retailer online. On her subsequent trip to Austria, the woman suffered a serious injury when she fell from a train platform. The woman sued the company operating the train, OBB Personenverkehr AG (“OBB”), which is wholly owned by the Austrian government.

The case was filed in a federal district court in California, alleging that the negligence of the defendant was what caused her to fall and sustain her serious injury. At trial, OBB asked the court to dismiss the case based on the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which grants immunity to foreign governments in personal injury lawsuits. However, the plaintiff claimed that her case fit into an exception to that general rule, and immunity did not attach. Specifically, she claimed that her case fit into the “commercial activity” exception, which applies when the lawsuit “is based upon a commercial activity carried on in the United States by the foreign state.”

Continue reading →

Published on:

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Mississippi decided a case involving a family who brought suit against the Mississippi Department of Transportation after they were involved in an accident on a bridge that they claimed was improperly maintained. According to court documents, the case consisted of two claims, a failure-to-warn claim and a failure-to-maintain claim.

bridge-2-1547373Evidently, the family was driving across a bridge that had recently undergone some repairs. As a result, there were metal grates covering large portions of the road where asphalt had been recently laid. These grates allegedly stuck up, causing a dangerous condition. As the plaintiffs drove over the grates, their car got caught and spun around, and minor injuries resulted.

Another family member arrived on the scene shortly afterward and spoke with MDOT employees who were on the scene. They told her that they had received calls earlier that day about the dangerous condition and that she should take pictures of the grating. She did so.

Continue reading →