After getting punched in the face with enough force that it broke his jaw and required surgical wiring to repair it during his lunch period, Nassau County high school student Tyrus Hodge and his parents sued the school, claiming the school was liable for these injuries for failing to prevent this occurrence. You may be wondering, "why should the school be held responsible for what appears to be a relatively spontaneous violent act of another student?" In truth, the defendants asked the very same question, and asked the Court to dismiss the case on that basis.

In denying the defendants' motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' negligent supervision claim, however, the Court noted that the assaulting student's rather impressive disciplinary history, including other instances of violent conduct and 11 suspensions, putting the school on notice of this student's dangerous, or violent, propensities.

In addition, the school only assigned two teachers to monitor the cafeteria which seated 250 students (and that none of them were present at the time of the incident), despite the school's tacit knowledge that there had been 28 prior incidents in the cafeteria involving other students who were suspended for fighting, pushing, slap boxing and throwing soda cans and balls. Under the circumstances, the Court held that a jury should be allowed to consider the question was whether the school's duty to provide adequate supervision had been breached.

The upshot: I think this is a close case, and it could go either way on appeal.

Jonathan Cooper
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Non-Compete, Trade Secret and School Negligence Lawyer
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