School and Town Claim Immunity After Ice-Related Injury

Case Details

In the case of Caruso v. Town of Westport, a husband and wife sued the Town of Westport and its school board for injuries resulting from negligence, as well as a loss of consortium. In law, negligence is the failure to use reasonable care, resulting in damage or injury to another. In order to succeed in this claim, the husband and wife must prove that (1) the town and school owed a duty of care to the husband and wife, (2) the town and school breached that duty, and(3) the breach of duty was a direct cause of the husband and wife’s (4) real and compensable injury.

A loss of consortium is a claim for damages suffered by the spouse of a person who has been injured as a result of a party’s negligent or intentional actions. The town and school moved to strike these claims, in doing so, they challenged the legal sufficiency of the husband and wife’s complaint.

The husband and wife claim that on March 15, 2005 at around 7:00 p.m., the wife was attending a school concert at Staples High School in Westport, Connecticut. Upon the wife’s arrival at the high school, she was directed by a police officer to park in an adjacent parking lot at a neighboring middle school. The wife claims that the parking lot was poorly illuminated, and did not have its street lamps on. After exiting the vehicle, the wife immediately slipped and fell to the ground on a sheet of ice which caused her to sustain physical injuries.

The Court’s Decision

The court struck the claims against the town and school. Generally, a town is protected by governmental or municipal immunity, which provides a local government with immunity from tort-based claims. There are exceptions to this immunity, which are specifically set forth according to law or statute. No such exception was argued here.

“The right of the plaintiffs to recover is limited by the allegations of their complaints and the court must not countenance a variance which seeks to turn a suit against a governmental official in his official capacity into a suit against the individual personally” explained the court. “To do otherwise, would allow [the husband and wife] to subject an unsuspecting government official to personal liability.”

Source: Caruso v. Town of Westport, 2006 Conn. Super. LEXIS (Conn. Super. Ct. October, 10, 2006)

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