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Court Determines School Was Not Negligent in Recent School Injury Case

Posted in Firm News

One state’s supreme court recently released an opinion regarding the appeal of a verdict in favor of an injured middle school student. It discusses some legal concepts that may be relevant to people filing New Mexico personal injury lawsuits. In 2004, an 11-year-old student was playing floor hockey as part of his physical education class when he was accidentally struck in the eye by another student. The student had to undergo a series of eye surgeries and attend several follow-up appointments.

Several years later, the student, now an adult, filed a lawsuit against the school district, claiming negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligent supervision, and negligence per se. The school district asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the student’s claim should be barred under the assumption of risk doctrine, and the plaintiff’s claim was not supported by the evidence. The school also argued that it did not have a duty to provide safety equipment and that being hit with a hockey stick is an inherent risk associated with this type of game. Additionally, the school district argued that it should be immune from liability under its discretionary function immunity.

The lower court ended up finding in favor of the student and awarded him compensation for past medical bills, future medical expenses, and past pain and suffering. The school district appealed on the basis of the implied assumption of risk doctrine and the discretionary function immunity doctrine, and it argued that the student did not establish negligence.

The Supreme Court found that in this particular case, the implied assumption of risk doctrine did not apply because this was a compulsory physical education class. However, the court found that the doctrine of discretionary function immunity applied to adding floor hockey as a unit without safety equipment, but the school district was not immune in situations in which the administration acted negligently in supervision. However, ultimately, the court ruled in favor of the school district, finding that the student did not provide sufficient evidence to establish that the school was negligent.

Discretionary Actions and Governmental Liability When Students Are Injured at School

If a student is injured at a public school, their family may wish to bring a lawsuit against the school for the injuries they sustained. However, these cases can be particularly complex due to the issue of governmental immunity. Indeed, governmental immunity can serve as a protection against lawsuits of this nature. The laws throughout the United States vary regarding how this immunity is applied, but generally an issue that often arises is whether the negligent action was discretionary as opposed to ministerial.

In all, 39 states allow individuals to commence personal injury lawsuits against a school if the behavior that led to the injury was discretionary. However, 11 states, including New Mexico, do not speak to discretionary actions as an exception to this immunity in these types of cases. Because of this, these types of cases can be particularly challenging. An experienced attorney can determine whether a case has merit and whether this immunity or some variation may be applied by the court.

Have You Been Injured in a New Mexico School Activity?

If you or a loved one has been injured in a school activity or on school grounds, you should contact one of the dedicated New Mexico personal injury attorneys at the Fine Law Firm. These cases can be exceedingly difficult due to the various immunities surrounding potential defendants in these sorts of cases. An attorney at the Fine Law Firm can help you determine what your possible rights and remedies are. If you are successful, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you sustained. Contact the Fine Law Firm today at 800-640-6590 to schedule your free initial consultation.

More Blog Posts:

State Supreme Court Holds in Favor of Carnival After Fatal Injury, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, November 29, 2017.

New Mexico Supreme Court Explains Intricacies of Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, December 6, 2017.