SCHOOL ACCIDENTS AND INJURIES
When we send a child off to school, we expect the school and its staff members to provide adequate supervision and apply all necessary safety measures in order to prevent any harm or injury to our child. Unfortunately, all too often, this is not the case. Throughout the City of New York and the State of New York, children are injured at school every day. There a number of ways in which injuries and accidents occur in a school setting which include, the following:
- Failure to provide adequate supervision and to use reasonable care for a child’s safety;
- Negligence on the part of the school staff or janitorial/maintenance crews resulting in unsafe conditions inside or at the school premises;
- Poorly maintained buildings lacking proper upkeep;
- Failure to provide adequate security necessary to keep children safe from student-on-student assault, assault by strangers entering the school, sexual assault and/or molestation;
- Incompetent and/or dangerous teachers;
- Unsafe property conditions in the school playground; and,
- Food poisoning due to unsafe cafeteria food.
If your child was injured in a school accident due to any of the above-related situations or there was some other type of accident or injury resulting from a lack of supervision or some other type of negligence within a New York school, the Law Offices of Ira M. Perlman, P.C. & Robert D. Rosen, P.C. are experienced school injury lawyers well versed in the elements necessary to successfully bring and prove a school accident case in order to obtain full and fair compensation on behalf of your child due to any harms and losses sustained.
Proving Inadequate Supervision in Schools
In New York, the law recognizing a school’s duty to supervise students is derived from the fact that the school is acting in “loco parentis” for the student. In other words, the Board of Education or the school district which is being sued has the responsibility to use the same degree of care and supervision over its pupils that are under its control as a reasonably prudent parent would use under the same circumstances. In this regard, there are various circumstances which have to be taken into account regarding the situation that is being complained of, as well as the age of the child and what instructions, if any, were given to the children with respect to whatever activity was going on.
The Board of Education or school district has the same duty towards students as is owed by a reasonably prudent parent. The standard for determining whether the duty was breached by the school is whether a parent of ordinary prudence placed in an identical situation and armed with the same information would invariably provided greater supervision. Therefore, school cases involving lack of supervision are very fact specific and require a thorough analysis of what exactly was going on when an injury or accident took place.
Further, in determining whether the duty to provide adequate supervision has been breached in the context of injuries caused by the acts of fellow students, such as in a fight between two students, it must be established that the school authorities had sufficiently specific knowledge or notice of the dangerous conduct that caused the injury, that is, that the fellow student’s acts could reasonably have been anticipated. For instance, notice may be inferred from the continuance of the particular danger for such a period of time that had there been supervision, the danger would have been discovered. Therefore, if there is no warning concerning an immediate assault that takes place by one student against another student, there may be no liability against the school. On the other hand, if there was some idea or evidence pointing to knowledge by the school staff that there was about to be a fight or that a staff member was not where he or she was supposed to be and a fight occurred, the school may very well be liable.
What is reasonable care under the standard of care of a reasonably prudent parent varies with the age of the student, the mental capacity of the student, as well as the existence or absence of rules and regulations regarding the situation.
As an example, if the school safety officer witnesses a fight, that school safety officer has an obligation to take energetic steps to intervene in time to prevent the child from being injured. Further, if the injury is the result of an assault by a child with a known history of fighting, bullying and other physical misbehavior both in general and toward the particular injured child, the mere fact that the assault happened quickly does not necessarily absolve the school from liability. However, a school is not liable for injuries resulting from fights between students if the injured student voluntarily entered into the fight.
Hazardous Playground Equipment
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year in the United States emergency rooms treat more than 200,000 children for playground injuries. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the greatest numbers of playground injuries result from falls from playground equipment. The Board of Education and various school districts have the responsibility to adequately and properly supervise students who are children that play in a playground during the school day. While it may not be feasible for school staff to constantly and continuously watch each child on a playground, the degree of supervision required depends largely on the surrounding circumstances and the same duty of care and supervision is owed by school personnel that would be owed by a reasonably prudent parent.
It is also important to inspect and maintain all of the various equipment in a schoolyard or playground and protect children from decaying, broken or unstable equipment which can certainly injure a child. There are also commonly known standards relating to playgrounds requiring certain materials to cover the ground in the area of play equipment in addition to various other standards involving the equipment to prevent injuries and accidents due to falls from various heights.
Statutory Duty to Report Child Abuse
Although there is no common law duty to report acts of sexual abuse or other child abuse, there is a statutory duty in New York on the part of a school official “to report or cause a report to be made to the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment or, where appropriate, to a local child protective service when they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child coming before them in their professional or official capacity is an abused or maltreated child.” (Social Services Law ‘413.)
Additionally, under ‘1012(e) of the Family Court Act, an “abused child” is one whose parent or other person responsible for the child’s care commits, or allows to be committed, a sex offense against such child. Thus, whether a teacher is required to report a suspected case of child sexual abuse under the statute is determined by the facts and circumstances known to the teacher at the time he or she learns of the abuse.
Liability under the Theory of “Respondeat Superior”
Whether it is the Board of Education of the City of New York which operates most of the schools in the City of New York, a private school, or it involves another public school district outside of the five boroughs, the school involved is responsible for the acts of a teacher employed by it when such acts are performed within the scope of the teacher’s employment. “Respondeat Superior” is a legal doctrine which states that in many circumstances an employer is responsible for the actions of employees performed within the course of their employment. This is also known as the “Master-Servant Rule”. It is the duty of the teacher to use the same degree of care over the pupils in his or her charge as a parent of ordinary prudence would use under the same circumstances. If that teacher is found to be negligent then his or her employer will be held responsible for the acts and/or omissions of its teacher.
HOW WE CAN HELP YOU
Ira Perlman and Robert Rosen have over 30 years of experience in winning their clients full and complete monetary compensation for their harms and losses as well as the respect and dignity they so justly deserve. Mr. Perlman is a tenacious and seasoned trial attorney who has been successfully trying his clients’ cases as well as cases referred to the office from other attorneys for over 30 years. Mr. Rosen, with his adept litigation and writing skills has navigated clients’ lawsuits inside and outside the courthouse in order to achieve the excellent results that generate our ongoing success. The Law Offices of Ira M. Perlman, P.C. & Robert D. Rosen, P.C. are prepared to expend all of the necessary resources, financial or otherwise, in order to investigate and prosecute your case including retaining all necessary medical and/or technical experts in the relevant areas and fields and taking your case to verdict at trial if the insurance companies who represent the wrongdoers do not want to fully and fairly compensate you and your loved ones. If you, a family member or a loved one has become a victim due to an accident, malpractice or a serious injury and you would like to achieve optimum results on your claim, call the Law Offices of Ira M. Perlman, P.C. & Robert D. Rosen, P.C. at (212) 689-5000 for help including a free initial consultation.