Merry-Go-Round School Injury Suit

School Injury Suit Allowed by Appeals Court, Despite Legal Restrictions against Suing the Government

A school injury. Every parent’s nightmare. And something that a Franklin Township, New Jersey family experienced firsthand.

A sixth-grade middle school student named Brianna played at recess one day. Unfortunately, another girl pushed the merry-go-round as Brianna stepped off. Brianna fell off the merry-go-round and injured herself. She broke her arm.

Consequently, Brianna sued the board of education. She claimed that the merry-go-round was dangerous. She also claimed that the school failed to properly supervise the students at recess. Only two aides and no teachers supervised at least fifty students. The school policy was to have to six teachers and two aides assigned to playground supervision. Therefore, Brianna claimed that the school was careless.

However, the trial judge would not let Brianna’s school injury case go to a jury. He dismissed all of Brianna’s claims. The judge based his decision on the New Jersey Tort Claims Act. Under the Act, the government is immune from being sued for many things. Things that a private party could be sued for. Moreover, even when a suit against the government is allowed, a higher standard of negligence often must be proved.

Brianna appealed. The appeals court upheld the dismissal of her claim about the dangerousness of the merry-go-round. However, the appeals court reinstated Brianna’s claim of negligent supervision.

What the law requires for a valid claim.

Under the Tort Claims Act, you generally are allowed to sue the government when its employee makes a “palpably unreasonable” decision at the planning level. Furthermore, you can also sue if an employee negligently carries out policy. The appeals court noted that Brianna was making both claims. First, she claimed that the policy of how the children were supervised was palpably unreasonable. Moreover, she also claimed that the employees on duty did not properly carry out the supervision policy that was in force.

Accordingly, Brianna will get her day in court. She may yet receive compensation for her school injury. Good for her.

You can review the appeals court decision here.

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