Visitor Question

Unsupervised student fractured my son’s tibia…

Submitted By: Jamie (Oklahoma City, OK)

My son’s leg was broken on school grounds by an older student. Here’s what happened…

I picked up my son (in kindergarten) and proceeded to wait in an area designated for parents to wait until the older students were released. While we were waiting, a fourth grade student who had apparently been released to go home decided to climb to the top of a slide and jump down from the top.

He landed on my son who was standing on the ground nearby and caused a spiral fracture of his tibia.

When the incident occurred, neither the parents of the child or any school official was nearby. Apparently the boy walks home by himself, and when the school releases “walkers” the teachers just open the door of the school and let the students go. No one monitors the children to make it off school property other than a crossing guard on the other side of the school lot (not nearby).

When informed of my son’s injuries and what had occurred, the principal of the school apologized for what had happened. He told me students are not permitted to “hang around” after school and the forth grader should not have been playing on the equipment, period.

However, that day and the days before many children played on the equipment in the release area and no one stopped them. Also when the incident occurred, my other son, a 2nd grader, hadn’t even been released yet.

I guess my question is, can I hold anyone liable for my son’s medical bills? Can the parents be held liable for their son recklessly jumping from a height into a crowded area? Or can the school be held liable for not making sure students leave school property in a safe manner? Thank you for any direction you can give.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Jamie,

The answer to your questions will primarily depend on whether the school was public or private. If the school was public, based on the legal doctrine of Sovereign Immunity, the school may be immune from claims for compensation resulting from negligence.

Sovereign immunity protects government employees and agencies from civil liability. However, over the years, the doctrine of sovereign immunity has been eroded. Today, many government agencies permit parties injured by the negligent acts of a governmental subdivision or employee to file a claim for injuries and resulting costs.

Under Chapter 5, Section 153 of Oklahoma’s Governmental Tort Claims Act:

“A. The state or a political subdivision shall be liable for loss resulting from its torts or the torts of its employees acting within the scope of their employment subject to the limitations and exceptions specified in this act and only where the state or political subdivision, if a private person or entity, would be liable for money damages under the laws of this state.

The state or a political subdivision shall not be liable under the provisions of this act for any act or omission of an employee acting outside the scope of his employment.”

In the alternative, if the school was private, and it can be proved the boy who unintentionally injured your child was not properly supervised, then the school may be liable. Private schools do not enjoy protection under Sovereign Immunity.

Finally, parents may be held liable for the negligent acts of their children. While Oklahoma does not have a “Parental Responsibility “statute, common law would permit a minor’s parents to sue the parents of a boy who purposely inflicted undue harm or injury on the former’s child through willful or malicious conduct.

From the facts you present, there does not seem to be any evidence of willful or malicious conduct by the older boy.

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

Best of luck,

Published: August 30, 2016

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