Sometimes, you can't blame them for trying.

In Hofmann v. Coxsackie-Athens Central School District, the plaintiff's 13-year-old daughter, a student at the defendant middle school, sustained serious personal injuries, including a fractured jaw that required corrective surgery, after she was assaulted by two fellow middle school students. Not surprisingly, the school moved to dismiss the case on the grounds that this assault was sudden and unforeseeable, and therefore, the school asserted that they could - and should - not be held liable for the child's injuries. (For additional information on this topic, please see "How to Prove Your School Negligence Case").

A mere cursory reading of the Appellate Division, Third Department's decision reveals that this motion was dead on arrival, however. And here's why:

Contrary to the school's boilerplate contention that "it had no notice that this particular assault would take place or that either assailant had a history of engaging in the type of conduct that would have made it foreseeable that such an attack would occur," the plaintiff had been assaulted - and threatened with future violence - by the same two students the Friday before the attack on school grounds at a school-sponsored activity (which the school was made aware of),  Moreover, the Court noted the following:

  "[The school] did know, prior to the actual assault, that the male assailant had compiled an extensive disciplinary record while attending school and that, in the 14-month period leading up to this incident, he had been cited no less than 30 times for disciplinary infractions involving misconduct committed while on school grounds. These infractions included insubordination to school staff, disruptive conduct in the classroom, inappropriate and forcible touching of female students, extensive use of profanity and assaultive conduct directed towards other students, some of which resulted in physical injury ... Based on this history, one could conclude that the School District should have reasonably anticipated that the male assailant, because of his propensity to engage in such inappropriate conduct, posed a danger to others attending his school and could well assault another student."

In short, this case is a textbook example of how you can prove a school assault case.
Jonathan Cooper
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Non-Compete, Trade Secret and School Negligence Lawyer
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