School District Liability

School Districts: Vicarious & Direct Liability

By on April 22, 2012 - Comments off

C.A. v. William S. Hart Union High School, (Supreme Court of California, March 8, 2012) 54 Cal.4th 861, 270 P.3d 699, 138 Cal.Rptr.3d 1, 276 Ed. Law Rep. 1048, 12 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 2817, 2012 Daily Journal D.A.R. 3131

A teenage boy who alleged he was sexually molested by his high school guidance counselor filed an action against the school district and the counselor. The complaint alleged that the counselor had “sexually harassed, abused and molested” the plaintiff on a number of occasions over a period of eight months, and asserted causes of action against the school and the district for, inter alia, negligence, negligent supervision, and negligent hiring and/or retention.

The district demurred to the complaint, arguing that it could not be held liable in tort in the absence of an authorizing statute or enactment, that it could not be vicariously liable for the actions of the counselor, and that allegations of negligent hiring, training and supervision do not apply to a public entity. The trial court sustained the district’s demurrer without leave to amend, and the court of appeal affirmed, holding that the facts as alleged did not support a claim for vicarious liability. The court also held that no statute allowed a direct cause of action for negligence against the district, and that no mandatory duty subjected the district to liability.

However, the California Supreme Court reversed, holding that a public school district may be vicariously liable under Government Code § 815.2 for the negligence of administrators or supervisors in hiring, supervising and retaining a school employee who sexually harasses and abuses a student: Read the rest »


School District Liability: Special Needs Students

By on February 17, 2009 - Comments off

Jennifer C. v. Los Angeles Unified School District, (2nd District, December 8, 2008) 168 Cal. App. 4th 1320, 86 Cal.Rptr.3d 274, 2008 WL 5122998

A 14-year-old special needs student who was sexually assaulted on school grounds during a lunch break filed an action against the school district, alleging negligent supervision and maintenance of a dangerous condition of public property. The plaintiff contended that while “mainstreamed” and allowed to interact with the general education student body, she was assaulted by another special needs student who took her to a hidden alcove underneath a stairway.

The school district moved for summary judgment, arguing that as a matter of law the plaintiff would have to demonstrate that the same type of conduct or victimization had previously occurred on the campus before there could be a finding of foreseeability. The trial court granted summary judgment, but the court of appeal reversed, holding that the absence of prior similar incidents was not a bar to a finding of liability: Read the rest »