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Running head: VIEWING TORT LIABILITY 1

Viewing Tort Liability

Evelyn Morales-Ramirez

College of Southern Nevada

April 19, 2016


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Abstract

This paper will address a case where a student experiences an accident as a result of possible

negligence from the schools part. Both sides of the case will be discussed and in the end a

decision must be made determining whether the school acted appropriately or whether the

students’ accident is a result of negligence from the schools part.


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Being a teacher, or even being part of the schools’ staff, comes with several

responsibilities. While the children are in school, they are under the care of the school and

teachers. Sometimes there are cases where even without being on school grounds, students are

still the responsibility of the teachers and school (i.e. field trips, volunteer services, etc.).

Although there are cases where the care of students is still under the responsibility of the school,

there are cases where it is uncertain whether the school could be held responsible for a student

not on school grounds and under certain circumstances. In Ray Knights’ case, he was a middle

school boy who got suspended due to unexcused absences. School district procedures required

telephone notification and a written notice sent by mail to his parents, but the school only

complied with sending a notice home with the student who then chose to throw it away.

Therefore, Ray’s parents were unaware of his suspension. During the first day of his suspension,

Ray visited a friend’s house and while he was there he was accidentally shot.

One case that would support the plaintiff, Ray Knight, and find the school liable for his

accident is Goss v. Lopez. In this case public high school students were suspended for ten days

without being given hearings either before or after their suspension. Ohio law did not require the

school to give the students a hearing, but the principal’s actions were questioned and challenged.

It was believed that the students’ rights had been violated due to the fact that they were not given

a hearing. The Court found that their Due Process rights granted by the Fourteenth Amendment

had been violated and that the students’ should at minimum be given a notice before suspension

and offered some type of hearing either before or after the suspension (Oyez). In Ray Knight’s

case it is not mentioned that he was given a hearing before his suspension or a notice that was

actually viewed by his parents allowing them to be aware of the suspension.


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The Fourteenth Amendment could also be used to defend Ray Knight, since it grants him

procedural rights. There are certain procedural requirements that must be completed before a

student can be suspended. In the textbook Legal Rights of Teachers and Students by Cambron-

McCabe, McCarthy and Eckes it states, “The Court held that minimum due process must be

provided before a student is suspended for even a brief period of time (p. 176).” There was no

type of due process that was given to Ray Knight. It is uncertain how many days he was

suspended for, but it is known that the school district procedures required the school to notify the

parents through a phone call and a prompt written notice by mail. The failed to do either one and

merely sent a notice with the student who chose to throw it away, leaving his parents unaware of

his suspension. Ray Knight was not given his due process rights granted to him through the

Fourteenth amendment which can be claimed to have a link with the accident.

In order for the school to be held liable for Ray’s accident and guilty of negligence four

elements must be proven: duty, breach of duty, causation and injury. In Ray’s case those four

elements could be proven. The school had a duty to protect the plaintiff and grant proper

supervision to the pupil. It was not possible for the student to have proper supervision by his

parents at home if it was unknown to them that their child had be suspended. To their knowledge

their child was in school, where he was being properly supervised, which in all case was not

what was happening. The injury that Ray Knight suffered was due to a breach of duty from the

schools’ part. There could be a link between the negligent act, which was the school failing to

properly inform Ray’s parents of his suspension, and the harm caused to him. When it comes to

negligence there are two types that could be claimed: contributory and comparative.

Contributory negligence means that the student is responsible for the injury and comparative

negligence means that the student and educator/school are both responsible for the injury. In this
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case it could be claimed to be comparative negligence, but with the school bearing most of the

responsibility. The students’ duty was to give the notice to his parents and even after he failed to

do so, he was the one that went to his friend’s house instead of staying home, in which case the

accident could have been prevented. The school still carries majority fault and bears most of the

responsibility due to the fact that their negligence to send a proper notification to his parents.

Moving over to the defendants’ side, Collete v Tolleson Unified School District is a case

that would support the defendants’ side and would not find the school liable for Ray’s accident.

In this case, five students from Westview High School, including Zachary Thomason, who was

the driver, left school campus during the schools’ lunch hour in Thomason’s car to go to the

mall. The school had a modified closed-campus policy which allowed sophomores, juniors, and

seniors who had a GPA of 3.0 or higher leave school campus during their lunch hour. Along with

having a GPA of 3.0, they also had to have their parents’ permission to leave the campus and

those who had both were given a card to symbolize that they were among the students who were

allowed to leave the campus. The students with the cards had to present them upon leaving and

re-entering campus. Thomason and two of the other students that were in the car did not have

cards. When Thomason was leaving he was encountered by a security at the campus entrance

and he told the security that he did not have a card. The security told him that he was not allowed

to leave school campus and Thomason claimed that he needed some books that were in his car,

which was parked off campus. The security guard did not try to stoop him after that, he just told

Thomason to hurry back. Thomason then picked up the other four students that went with him at

an unguarded gate. On their way back to school from the mall while Thomason was trying to

switch lanes he lost control of the vehicle and crashed into another car (Collette v. Tolleson

Unified School District NO 214, 2016). . The court found that the school was not responsible for
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the accident that occurred while the students were off campus. The accident could not be directly

linked to the fact that the students left school campus unauthorized; it was unforeseeable

accident. This case can be used in the defendants’ defense because similar to this case, Ray

Knight’s accident was not on school grounds and the accident could not be directly linked to

Ray’s suspension.

Another case that would support the school and find them not liable for Ray’s accident is

Maldonado v. Tuckahoe Union Free School District. In this case Bridgette Maldonado, who was

the injured plaintiff, was attacked in her own house by Brian Morris whom Maldonado had had

previous encounters with at their school, Tuckahoe High School. About one month before the

incident at Maldonado’s house the defendant’s became aware that Morris had allegedly made

death threats to Maldonado and her brother. Due to that, the school’s principal and both of the

students’ parents met to discuss the matter. As a result of the meeting, Morris was suspended and

was still suspended during the incident at Maldonado’s house. According to the website, Findlaw

for Legal Professionals, “…the defendants’ alleged negligence in this case-i.e., the failure to

protect the injured plaintiff from the criminal act of a third party-involves a governmental

function for which the defendants may not be held liable in the absence of a special duty.” The

school district could not be held liable for Maldonado’s attack at her home being that it was not

on school campus. The school took the disciplinary actions necessary, which was suspending

Morris from school. The school could not do more than that, such as protect the plaintiff at her

own home. The incident was not caused by a breach of duty or negligence. It was also not a

normal or foreseeable circumstance. With this case similarities are also seen with Knight’s case.

Again, the accident was an unforeseeable action; it could not be predicted that Ray would get

shot at his friend’s house under normal circumstances. In the textbook Legal Rights of Teachers
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and Students by Cambron-McCabe, McCarthy and Eckes it states, “As a general rule, school

districts are not expected to protect truant and non-attending students or students who are injured

in their homes (p. 25).” That statement applies to both Maldonado’s case and Knight’s case, the

school could not be held liable.

In conclusion, from viewing the several court cases and both sides of the case I would say

that the Court would side with Ray Knight and hold the school liable of his injury. Due to school

officials not following the proper school district procedures it lead to a breach of duty and to a

lack of supervision. If Ray’s parents had been aware of his suspension the accident may have

been prevented. In his case the school was negligent in performing the proper school procedures

which resulted in the improper supervision of Knight, who is a minor, and lead to an injury.
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References

Cambron-McCabe, N. H., McCarthy, M. M., & Eckes, S. E., (2014). Legal Rights of Teachers

and Students. New Jersey: Pearson.

FindLaw. (2016). Collette v. Tolleson Unified School District No 214. FindLaw for Legal

Professionals. Retrieved from http://caselaw.findlaw.com/az-court-of-

appeals/1291266.html.

FindLaw. (2016). Maldonado v. Tuckahoe Union Free School District. FindLaw for Legal

Professionals. Retrieved from http://caselaw.findlaw.com/ny-supreme-

court/1171158.html.

Goss v. Lopez. (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved from https://www.oyez.org/cases/1974/73-989.