Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving a parent’s allegations against her daughter’s school. While the case arose in another jurisdiction, it raises important issues under Indiana personal injury law. Specifically, the duty that a school owes to its students.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff’s daughter sustained a serious cut to her thumb in woodshop class. Evidently, the student was trying to free a jammed piece of wood from a table saw when the student’s hand came into contact with the saw’s blade. At the time, the shop teacher was out of the shop supervising other students.
The shop teacher testified that before a student was permitted to use the machine unsupervised, they had to pass a written test. Additionally, the teacher would observe students using the machine until he felt comfortable they could do so safely. He estimated that he observed the plaintiff use the table saw correctly 60 times.
The plaintiff argued that the school owed her daughter a heightened duty of care to protect her from harm while she was in the school’s care. The trial court rejected the plaintiff’s argument and instructed the jury that the school only had an ordinary duty of care. The jury returned a defense verdict, and the plaintiff appealed.
On appeal, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision not to instruct the jury that the school had a heightened duty of care. The court explained that while schools have a “special relationship” with students, that relationship only requires ordinary care to be used by a school to protect its students.
Indiana Schools Owe a Duty to Exercise Reasonable Care
In Indiana, schools must “exercise reasonable care and supervision for the safety of the children under their control.” Previous court decisions indicate that this duty is a flexible one, and that each case is considered based on its individual facts. However, courts have stated that schools should recognize that they are dealing with minors “whose characteristics make it likely that they may do somewhat unreasonable things.” Additionally, in Indiana, there is no per se rule that a school can only be held liable for injuries occurring on school property or during school hours.
Has Your Child Been Injured While Participating in a School Activity?
If your child has recently suffered serious injury while at school or while engaging in a school-related activity, contact the dedicated Indiana personal injury law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse. At Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse, we have been aggressively representing accident victims and their families in all types of Indiana personal injury cases for the past 40 years. To learn more about how we can help you pursue a claim for compensation based on the injuries your child has suffered, call 888-532-766 today.
Indiana Court Holds Plaintiff’s Misuse of Tool Defeated Product Liability Claim, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, November 29, 2018
Plaintiff Injured in Slip-and-Fall Accident at Doctor’s Office Failed to Show Defendant’s Knowledge of the Hazard that Caused Her Fall, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, December 11, 2018