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What Is A School's Responsibility To Assure The Safety of Its Teachers? Not Much, NY Court Says.


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12/11/2009
Jonathan Cooper
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In Dinardo v. City of New York, a decision that was handed down on December 1, New York's highest Court dismissed the lawsuit of a New York City school teacher who sued for the serious personal injuries she sustained when she was assaulted by a student. In this particular case, the Court held that despite the fact that this student had previously exhibited aggressive tendencies, and the teacher was asked to"hang in there" because something was being done to have [the student] placed or removed, the Appellate Court held that there was no rational basis upon which the jury could have concluded that the teacher justifiably relied on the school to assure her safety, or in legal terms, that a "special relationship" existed that would warrant imposing liability on the school. (For more on this topic, see "When Can A Municipality Be Held Liable For Failing To Protect You?")

In the words of the Court of Appeals, “[T]he vaguely worded statements by the plaintiff's supervisor and principal that was being done to have the student removed, without any indication of when, or if, such relief would come, do not, as a matter of law, constitute an action that would lull a plaintiff into a false sense of security or otherwise generate justifiable reliance."

Is it just me, or do you also find this decision very disturbing? It seems that this decision is fundamentally at odds with what transpires in the real world.

I wholeheartedly agree with the dissent's point in this case - that it is plainly wrong to penalize a teacher who went above and beyond the call of duty to continue teaching under very trying circumstances.

Category: School Negligence / Personal Injury

Jonathan Cooper
Employment Litigation and School Negligence Lawyer

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