Injuries at School

“My daughter was injured playing softball at school.  She broke her ankle and needed a rod and pins inserted in her leg to repair it. Can she sue the school?”

Injuries incurred while engaging in recreational activities may lead to a successful claim against the school.  But while playing any sport, every particpant assumes that she or he will be subject to some risk that is not present in the classroom. The question of school liability comes down to handling the risk in the best way possible.

The standards for school conduct are different if the activity occurred during school hours in a physical education class versus an interscholastic competition. Besides seeing if written safety policies were followed, the court would have to look at the equipment involved (was it certified by the National Operating Commttee on Standards for Athletic Equipment?). Were the parents fully apprised of all the risks? How much training and experience did the coach have? Was the coach ever evaluated? Were there any prior complaints about the coach? If the safety equipment was certified, did the athlete have adaquate training so she knew how to use the equipement? Did the athlete have proper training to avoid injury? Was the athlete in good physical condition so she could avoid injury? Was the school equiped to render medical assitance so as to avoid further injury to the athlete?

There are many more areas of inquiry depending upon the cirmstances. Without spending more time discussing specifics, it is impossible to determine if the school was liable.

Negligent Supervision

“My child came home from school complaining of an injury to her shoulder that she said another girl at school gave her, can I sue the school?”

There are many issues this type of case brings up which are just not addressed in the question. Rather than highlight what is not known, I will attempt to outline the various claims a student could bring.

There are two sets of laws that could apply to this situation: federal and state law. A student could bring a claim based in federal law under Title IX of the Federal Civil Rights Law. The three claims this student could bring are for (1) erroneous outcome (2) selective enforcement and (3) deliberate indifference. To establish a claim for erroneous outcome, a plaintiff must show specific facts that cast doubt on the accuracy of a disciplinary proceeding.  A selective enforcement claim requires a showing that, regardless of the student’s guilt or innocence, the severity of the penalty and/or the decision to initiate the proceeding was affected by the student’s gender.  In order to prevail on a claim of deliberate indifference, a plaintiff must show that a school’s response was clearly unreasonable in light of the known circumstances.

There is a lot to explain, but given the lack of facts in the question, it is difficult (and very lengthy) to explain these concepts in abstract.

The state law claim would be for negligent supervision and would just not include the circumstances surrounding the incident in which the injury arose (for example, were there teachers present) but the care of the student following the incident (for example, did the student see a school nurse, was the parent notified, etc.).

I would respectfully suggest that it would be best to sit down and try to get the whole story before explaining all available claims.

One other warning to this claim: if the student is enrolled in public school there may be additional requirements for filing a notice of claim within 90 days after the incident and filing a summons in court within one year and 90 days.