Liability for school's lack of treatment?

by Jelayne
(Peoria, AZ)

My daughter spilled a cup of hot soup in her lap during lunch. The school did not treat the injury other then a burn spray, and sent her back to class. She had to sit with the pants for several hours. When she got home she began to cry uncontrollably in pain.

When we removed her pants she had burns with blisters and she was complaining it still burned and hurt, so we immediately put a cool compress on and contacted the doctor. The doctor confirmed second degree burns and prescribed a special burn cream.

Is the school liable for failing to adequately treat the initial burn and therefore allowing our child to suffer as the burn continued to burn her and cause additional pain until she returned home? What can be done about this? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Liability for school's lack of treatment?":

Jelayne (Peoria, AZ):

Schools have a legal duty to do everything reasonably possible to protect their students from undue harm and injury. When a school fails to do everything reasonably possible to protect its students, and as a result, a student is injured, the school may be liable for the student's injuries and related damages.

Damages can include medical and therapy bills, out of pocket expenses (for such items as medications, bandages, costs of travel to treatment, crutches, slings, etc.), lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Before a school can be liable it is important to know how the legal doctrine of Sovereign Immunity applies...

Under sovereign immunity, governmental agencies and their employees are immune from claims of negligence and civil lawsuits brought by people who have been injured as a result of the acts or omissions of the government agencies (or its employees), when the agency and/or its employees were acting within the scope of their customary work duties. Public schools and their teachers fall into this category.

In your daughter’s case, it would appear sovereign immunity applies, and as a result you would be barred from a claim of negligence against the school.

However, there are two primary exceptions to sovereign immunity...

First: Sovereign immunity does not protect government employees, including school teachers and administrators, from civil lawsuits resulting from negligence when the teacher or other school employee acts in a manner not customarily part of his or her work duties.

For example, if the school district's policy was for its employees to call 911, immediately notify a parent, or seek emergency medical care for an injured student, and the school failed to do so, then it is arguable the school employee acted outside their normal and customary work duties. As a result, it is arguable the school is not protected by sovereign immunity and may be liable for your daughter's injuries and resulting damages.

Second: If it can proved a school, through its employees acted in a grossly negligent manner or displayed a wanton disregard for the safety and well-being of one or more of it's students, then sovereign immunity may not apply.

However, for this to occur would require a showing the school knew, or should have known the employee was a threat to students, and knowing this the school failed to remove the employee from the students’ environment.

Speak with the school administrators. Ask them to reimburse you for your daughter's medical bills, and related damages. If they refuse, seek the advice and counsel of a personal injury attorney in your area.

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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