Claims Following a Student's Injury or Death at School
Parents expect that their children will grow, mature, and enjoy themselves (some more than others) at school. As our team of personal injury attorneys at Aronberg, Aronberg & Green know, parents do not send their children to school with the expectation that, while at school or participating in a school-run activity, they will be injured or killed. This article will explore Claims Following Student’s Injury Death School.
Unfortunately, the reality of students being injured—sometimes fatally—while engaged in school activities is one that many parents have to face. Following a horrible accident, many parents and other family members wonder whether there is anything in the law that permits them to seek compensation, for or on behalf of their family member, for the injury or death suffered by the student. In these types of cases, compensation is, as our injury lawyers know, sought not as a way to cash in on the injury or death of a loved one, but as a way to (a) be made whole and (b) punish wrongdoers, to ensure that other families do not have to suffer in a similar way.
One truly upsetting situation, originating in New York, provides an opportunity for our negligence and product liability lawyers to explore potential claims arising from school activities gone wrong. Just last month, a 9-year-old boy passed away after sustaining an injury during soccer practice at his school in New York City. The New York Police Department reported that he was stuck in the head by a goalpost during practice.
One key claim which may be asserted by injured or deceased students and/or their families is based on the idea of negligent supervision. Those who supervise student activities assume a duty—an important responsibility—of ensuring the safety of the students they oversee. If someone is injured, or killed, on the supervisor’s watch, that supervisor, and often the school employing the supervisor, can be held accountable, assuming the injury or death was a consequence of some failure of supervision.
For instance, as our negligent supervision attorneys know, if a coach is responsible for the safety of young students during a practice, and walks away for 30 mins, during which time a student is injured because there was no proper supervision, that coach—and the school—may very well be held liable.
The case of the young boy in New York presents another possible claim: one of product liability. The fact that the boy was struck in the head by a goalpost is troubling, and is perhaps evidence that the goalpost was defectively designed or manufactured—or both. Goal posts should be engineered so that they do not fall on (and in this case kill) the young student players engaged in the sport that the goal posts are used for.
One particularly relevant case on this issue is the case of Bourne v. Marty Gilman, Inc. from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. In that case, a university student rushed onto a football field with a group of students; the crowd eventually tore down the goalpost, which fell on the plaintiff, rendering him paraplegic. The court held, among other things, that simply because the goalpost could have been made safer does not mean that it was unreasonably dangerous; therefore, the court found for the defendant.
Here, though, there is no evidence that the 9-year-old boy (of far less physical capability that a group of rowdy college students, as in Bourne) tore down the goalpost. Thus, to the extent that the plaintiff in Bourne participated in creating his injury, there is no such reason to believe that the little boy from New York invited his own injury and consequent death.
You may, at this point, be thinking about the liability waivers which parents sign in order for their children to be permitted to participate in after-school activities. While they could prevent a family from bringing an action based on negligence, they would not, on their own, prevent a product liability suit. Even so, those waivers of liability are often found unenforceable by courts on the basis of being unconscionable, unfair, and unclear.
If you have any questions about these or any other related personal injury issues, or if you or someone you know has been injured due to the wrongdoing or negligence of another, please contact our Delray Beach personal injury lawyers at Aronberg, Aronberg & Green. To schedule a free consultation, please call 561-266-9191. With offices in Delray Beach, Boca Raton and Wellington, we are ready and able to assist you.