Any lawyer who takes on tough cases is going to lose every now and then. I'm no exception to this rule.
And that's exactly what happened in one of my school negligence cases, entitled Stephenson v. City of New York. In this case, my client was a Bronx middle school student who was assaulted by another student in school. At that time, the other student threatened my client, informing him that this fight wasn't over by any means - and that "he was going to get (the plaintiff) jumped." The school knew about this threat, but they chose never to inform either of these students' parents about the fight - or the threat. And two days later, the other student had some of his friends pin down my client, and they beat him until my client's jaw was fractured in two places, and needed surgical intervention to correct it.
The problem with the case was that this second assault happened off of school grounds.
And as a result, the school claimed it wasn't responsible (or, in legalese, "liable") for my client's injuries. I disagreed.
While the Bronx trial court denied the City's motion to dismiss the case, the Appellate Division, in a 3-2 decision that was rendered last Thursday, June 16, reversed.
I was contacted by the New York Law Journal for my response to the decision, and it is scheduled to appear in tomorrow's edition. Here's my quotation: "We feel rather strongly that the (majority opinion of the) Appellate Division was incorrect and we do not understand how a court can take the position that a school does not owe a duty to notify the parent of an imminent danger to one of its students that it had knowledge of."
Granted, this may be an uphill fight. But I believe that this issue is one of the important issues in school negligence cases under New York law. And I believe that my client is right.