Posts tagged with "exception"

How to File a Personal Injury Claim Against a School in Connecticut

If you have a personal injury claim against a school, a school employee, or a similar government entity or employee, you probably already know that it’s more complicated than just suing a private homeowner for a slip-and-fall. But what makes it so complicated, and what is the process?

Schools and their employees are often immune from liability for actions they undertake within the course and scope of their duties. That immunity is not unlimited, however, and particularly where a child’s injury is caused by gross negligence, malice, or wantonness, you can be compensated with monetary damages. CGS § 4-141, et seq. But, before you take your case to court, your case must be reviewed by the Commissioner of Claims.

Depending on the value of your case, the Commissioner of Claims will review your case, and may conduct a fact finding investigation, including witness interviews, document inspections, and other types of inquiries. The parties may engage in discovery in some cases, and the Attorney General may also be permitted to file a dispositive motion that asks the Commissioner to decide the issues in the case just on the known facts and law, but without a full hearing or trial. Once the Commissioner of Claims’ investigation (if applicable) is complete, s/he may issue a decision, or if there are unresolved legal issues, they may authorize you to file suit in
court.

Navigating an administrative process with an administrative authority requires expert guidance. Small mistakes such as misunderstanding a statute or missing a deadline can impact or even eliminate your ability to seek relief. If you have a personal injury claim against a school, school employee, or a similar government entity, the attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. can assist you. Managing Partner Joseph C. Maya may be reached directly by telephone at (203) 221-3100, ext. 110 or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

The above is not intended to constitute legal advice, and you should consult with an attorney as soon as possible if you believe you have this, or any other type of claim.

In Negligence Suit, Superior Court Finds in Favor of Defendant School District, Citing Qualified Immunity

In a recent negligence action, the Superior Court of Connecticut in Litchfield granted a motion to strike filed by school officials and a town board of education (collectively the defendants) because no exception to qualified immunity for discretionary acts applied to the case.

Case Details

One day during recess, a parent’s daughter was kicked and injured by a classmate (defendant student). The defendants were aware that the daughter was frequently bullied and harassed by the defendant student. Therefore, the parent filed suit, alleging that the defendant “failed in its duty to protect [his daughter] against any future bullying.”  However, the defendants asserted that they were not subject to liability because of governmental immunity.

Generally, municipal employees enjoy “qualified immunity in the performance of a governmental duty,”[1] which involves the exercise of discretion. However, even this immunity may be surmounted by a plaintiff if he or she can establish the applicability of one of three exceptions.

Identifiable Person-Imminent Harm

One of these exceptions is the “identifiable person-imminent harm” exception, which requires: “(1) an identifiable victim; (2) an imminent harm; and (3) a public official to whom it is apparent that his or her conduct is likely to subject that victim to that harm.”[2] This is a narrowly applied exception, however, because the harm itself must be “limited both in duration and in geography to make it apparent to the defendants that schoolchildren were subject to imminent harm.”[3] In other words:

Imminent harm excludes risks which might occur, if at all, at some unspecified time in the future. In order to meet the imminent harm prong of this exception… the risk must be temporary and of short duration.[4]

In this case, the Court found that although the plaintiff satisfied the first prong, he failed to do so with the second two. He failed to “allege a temporary condition which placed [his daughter] in imminent harm;” rather, it could have happened anytime, anywhere during the school day.[5] The defendants’ knowledge of the previous bullying and harassment, without more, was insufficient to satisfy the remainder of the test. Therefore, the Court ruled that the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity and granted the motion to strike.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

If you are the parent of a child who has been bullied or harassed at school, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced and knowledgeable school law practitioner. The attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C., assist clients in Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, and Westport. If you have any questions regarding school liability or any other education law matter, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

 


[1] Burns v. Board of Education, 228 Conn. 640, 645 (1994).

[2] Violano v. Fernandez, 280 Conn. 310, 319-20 (2006).

[3] Doe v. Board of Education, 76 Conn. App. 296, 302-03 (2003).

[4] Cady v. Tolland, 2006 Conn. Super. LEXIS 3526.

[5] Antalik et al. v. Thomaston Board of Education, 2008 Conn. Super. LEXIS 2082.

Title IX and State Law Regarding Mother-Son and Father-Daughter School Events

Several months ago, the American Civil Liberties Union submitted a letter[1] with a school district on behalf of a single mother “whose daughter had no father in her life but was precluded from attending [a] father-daughter dance [held by the school PTO group].”[2] In a decision released on Tuesday, the superintendent of the Cranston, Rhode Island schools announced the end of father-daughter and mother-son activities “because of fears they are illegal under gender discrimination law.”[3]

Education Amendments

In 1972, Congress enacted the Education Amendments, which included 20 U.S.C. § 1681. Commonly referred to as Title IX, this statute prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance […].”[4] There are numerous exceptions to this general prohibition, including subsection (8):

[T]his section shall not preclude father-son or mother-daughter activities at an educational institution, but if such activities are provided for students of one sex, opportunities for reasonably comparable activities shall be provided for students of the other sex […][5]

Exceptions in Title IX

The Cranston school district was concerned that State law did not have comparable exception language. Therefore, it conceded that “it could be argued […] that a father-daughter dance and a mother-son baseball game are not comparable activities” and, contrary to federal law, “perpetuates outdated notions of ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ activities.”[6]

Here in Connecticut, the General Statutes also prohibit discrimination in public schools:

Each… child shall have… an equal opportunity to participate in the activities, programs and courses of study offered in… public schools… without discrimination on account of race, color, sex, national origin or sexual orientation…[7]

However, much like with Rhode Island, there appears to be a distinct absence of exceptions similar to those found in Title IX. As such, it will be particularly interesting to see the reaction of our legislators in responding to this situation, or whether it will take the threat of litigation to spur action. At the very least, school districts nationwide should be on notice and take preemptive measures to make sure they aren’t the next Cranston, Rhode Island school district.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Should you have any questions regarding Title IX, discrimination in public schools, or other education law matters, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at Maya Murphy, P.C.’s Westport office located in Fairfield County at (203) 221-3100 or at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

 


[1] Letter to Superintendent Nero of the Cranston School Department, submitted May 2, 2012: www.riaclu.org/documents/CranstonSchoolDanceLetter.pdf

[2] “RI School System: Dad-Daughter Dances Violate Law,” by the Associated Press. September 21, 2012: Connecticut.cbslocal.com/2012/09/21/ri-school-system-dad-daughter-dances-violate-law

[3] “School Concludes Bias Law Bars Father-Daughter Dances,” by Debra Cassens Weiss. September 19, 2012: www.abajournal.com/news/article/school_concludes_discrimination_law_bars_father-daughter_dances

[4] 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a).

[5] 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a)(8).

[6] See Footnote 2.

[7] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-15c.