Is the school and/or parent liable for child on child injury?

by Irene
(Los Angeles, CA)

A 5-year old girl scratched a 6-year old girl on her face for no reason during After-School class time. It left the 6-year old girl with some scratch mark on her face. It happened in a split second, when the teacher was helping one of the students in the class.

The parent of the 6-year old girl demanded the school dismiss the 5-year old girl. If the school doesn't do so, the parent said they would sue the school. Is the school liable for this incident? Can the parent do anything legally? Is there anything the parent of the 5 year old girl can do to defend themselves? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Is the school and/or parent liable for child on child injury?":

Irene (Los Angeles, CA):

School officials and the teachers they employee have a legal duty to do everything within reason to protect their students from undue harm and injury. The operative phrase here is "within reason." You stated the scratch happened in "a split second." As a result, it can be argued the teacher had no time to react to stop the 5 year old from her action.

In that case, the school would likely not be liable for the 5 year old’s actions.

In the alternative, if the 5 year old had a history of scratching, hitting, or otherwise harming other students, and the school took no action to remove her from the area in which other students learn, then the school may be liable. In that regard, the school, and the teacher could be said to have "breached" their duty of care.

That breach is referred to as "negligence." Learn more about the concept of negligence in personal injury claims here and here. That breach might entitle the 6 year old girl compensation for the scratch.

However, to receive compensation would require a physician to determine the scratch will result in a permanent scar. Moreover, the parents of the 6 year old would also have to prove the 5 year old had a clear history of aggressive behavior and the school failed to take action to remove her.

Finally, if the school was a public school, it might be immune from a lawsuit under the theory of sovereign immunity. Sovereign immunity means that government agencies, including public schools, cannot be sued for acts of negligence. However, the school can choose not to invoke sovereign immunity and allow the claim to proceed.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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