According to the Institute for Economics and Peace‘s first-ever “United States Peace Index,” Nevada is the third-ranking most violent state in the country. The group’s report — and its underlying methodology — is still being digested by the public policy community, but some of the data speak for themselves: Nevada does have among the highest rates of violent crimes and homicides per capita among U.S. states, and on a national basis we are better at putting people in jail than getting them to graduate from high school with a diploma. These figures are a sober reminder to policy makers that Nevada schools need to improve rather than just hold the line, either of which is a difficult prospect in the face of a wounded economy and a desire to keep taxes and other sources of revenue at a minimum. As a few recent personal injury lawsuits show, these same factors also put schools at greater risk of facing legal action.
In reality, it is difficult for educational institutions to avoid Nevada school negligence lawsuits. With hundreds or even thousands of students, dozens of teachers and staff, and a wide range of activities mingling all at once, every sour combination brings the possibility of legal trouble. In a recent case, a girl was walking through a crowded hallway between classes and was shoved into a wall. Whether it was intentional or not, it had a serious effect: the girl lost consciousness, owing in part to an unusual heart condition. A teacher alerted administrators of an emergency but paramedics were not called for another seven minutes. The girl ended up dying in the hospital, and her surviving family members successfully sued the school for failure to act in a reasonably fast manner to address the emergency and for failing to supervise the passing period that resulted in the injury. The parties settled for about three-quarters of a million dollars.
As the case above shows, schools can be held accountable for inaction. In the case of public schools where compulsory education requires students’ attendance, schools occupy a unique role as public institutions. This position has been held to include certain special duties to provide for the welfare of students attending school, and staff and faculty failure to act can be as problematic as taking the wrong steps. There is, of course, plenty of potential for problematic actions as well. In addition to student-on-student violence, schools can also carry enormous liability for the actions of staff or faculty whose interactions with students are sexual, violent, or otherwise inappropriate.
Another common source of public school injury lawsuits is school sports and specialty classes such as metal shop or physical education. Schools often try to limit their exposure to liability by requiring students and parents to sign wide-ranging liability waivers before taking part in certain classes and field trips that involve heightened risk of injury. A recent lawsuit concluded in a jury award of more than $100,000 after a man was injured in a gymnasium. Many schools have to make multiple uses of gymnasiums and basketball courts, sometimes cramming two or more physical education classes into one space or separating two different functions — floor hockey and basketball, or p.e. class and band practice — with some kind of temporary divider. In this case, the divider separating two parts of the basketball court was a large net, which was too tall for the room and which draped down to the ground in a pile. A basketball player tried to field the ball near this part of the court and became entangled in the net, ultimately suffering a tear to his meniscus and a sprained ankle. When he sued for damages, he was ultimately able to recover compensation for his medical expenses and for the negligent way in which the net was suspended.
Another tragic case is that of a young football player whose season and quality of life were cut short due to a school football injury. The boy was a new addition to a school’s varsity football team when he was put in a game early in the season. Playing defense, the boy attempted to tackle an opposing player who was carrying the football; the boy lowered his head and rammed the other student, resulting in a spinal cord injury that left him a quadriplegic. Once a promising high school football player, the boy is now immobilized and requires 24-hour supervision and care. The boy’s family sued the school district, alleging that it was negligent in failing to properly train him and in allowing the athlete to play in a game before he had completed at least ten practices as is required by policy. His medical expenses alone exceeded $500,000 at the time of trial, and the boy’s family and the school district ultimately settled for a confidential amount.
When we send our children to public schools, we have high hopes for what they will gain. We hope they will learn and will build their social skills; we hope they will mature into better, brighter people. These hopes rest with us as parents and members of a community, but we are not the only responsible parties. We also expect that our children will come home to us each day safely and at least as healthy as they were when they left in the morning. If your child has suffered an injury at school and you want to learn more about your legal rights, contact our Las Vegas public school accident attorneys today for a free consultation.
Share and Enjoy