My Privilege Arguing a School Negligence Case Before NY's Highest Court
Last week, I had the privilege of arguing one of my client's school negligence cases before New York State's highest court - the Court of Appeals. At its core, the issue in the case boils down to whether a New York school has a duty to notify a student's parent about a potential threat to the student, and if the school can be held responsible for harm that comes to the student - even if the harm occurs off school grounds and not during school hours.
In this particular case, the trial court sided with our position, holding that the school breached its common law (which is another way of saying that the rule is not set forth in any statute) duty to act in the same fashion as a reasonable parent by failing to notify my client's mother that there was a fight between my client and the other student (the one who later injured him rather seriously), and that there was still simmering tension between the two (the other student specifically threatened to "get him jumped").
A majority of the five-judge panel at the Appellate Division disagreed, saying in essence, that once the school takes some steps to address the misconduct, which in this case was meting out an in-school suspension to the other student of 1-2 weeks and 1 day to my client, we are not permitted to inquire further into the adequacy of the school's actions.
Since two justices at the appellate level authored a vigorous dissent (which is extremely rare), we were permitted to go to the Court of Appeals (very few cases are permitted to go to this Court).
For the uninitiated, I can honestly say that arguing a case before such a smart 7-judge panel is quite a thrill; the judges were intimately familiar with the case before I even stepped foot in the courtroom, and seemed genuinely interested and concerned about the policy implications of their decision in this case.
In short, this is exactly what I had always imagined the practice of law would be like.
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