Is a Florida Public School Liable for Injuries Sustained by a Student Due to the Negligent Conduct of a School Employee?
In Florida, millions of children attend public school. On most days, the worst thing that happens to a student is in the form of test or homework. School is school. However, when a child suffers an injury at school, there are many challenges in dealing with the aftermath of the injuries in the form of medical care, medical bills, pain, suffering, and the stress that is otherwise associated with the personal injuries. There is a concept in Florida and other states called Sovereign Immunity. From the literal reading of this term, one may assume that a government entity is immune from being sued or held responsible for the negligent acts of school employees. The truth is that public schools can and do get sued for negligence when a child suffers personal injuries while under the care and supposed supervision of the school. While Florida Sovereign Immunity laws limit the amount of financial recovery and proscribe the manner, notice, and method for a government entity being sued, there is no immunity per se for negligent acts of school employees in the State of Florida.
The Supreme Court of Florida summarized the general law on point for school negligence cases and claims as follows:
A public school, at least through the high school level, undoubtedly owes a general duty of supervision to the students within its care. Case law is replete with instances of schools, principals and teachers being required to reasonably fulfill their duty to supervise students.
The Supreme Court of Florida further noted that a lawsuit can be filed against a school or school district as follows:
Florida courts have specifically recognized that a negligent failure to act in carrying out this duty of the school is actionable. The genesis of this supervisory duty is based on the school employee standing partially in place of the student's parents. Mandating schools has forced parents into relying on teachers to protect children during school activity.
While a school or school district can be sued for negligence, the cases are far from easy or clear cut. Like other negligent case, four elements must be established by the preponderance of the evidence presented as follows:
- Breach of Duty;
- Causation, and
In evaluating a case involving a public or even a private school, two essential questions are addressed as follows:
- Was the incident / accident foreseeable in nature to the school and / or its staff?
- Was the incident / accident preventable with better supervision, maintenance, or other reasonable and necessary acts on the part of the school and / or its staff?
Each case or claim must be evaluated on its own merits. It should be noted that a child under the age of 6 years old in the State of Florida cannot be held liable or even partially at fault as a matter of law. Children between 6 and under 18 can be held liable for partially at fault. The actions or inactions of the injured children are evaluated based on the consideration of the child's age, maturity, experience, intelligence, and other factors.
David Wolf is the author of 5 books focusing on child safety and injury issues. He has focused the span of his entire legal career in the field of personal injury and child injury issues. The book titled - The ABCs of Child Injury - Legal Rights of the Injured Child - What Every Parent Should Know - has chapters on School Injuries, Playground Injuries, Day Care Center Injuries, and other topics. You can get this book for free at The ABCs of Child Injury. David Wolf provides a free consultation on all personal injury and child injury claims and potential cases. Get D Wolf On Your Side - At Your Side right now.