This morning, I received some disturbing news: New York State's highest court held that even though my client's school had actual knowledge of an impending threat to my client's safety, the school still could not be held liable for the assault that followed because the school did not have an active role in creating the danger to my client.
As you may recall from one of my earlier blog posts regarding this case (see, e.g., "School Has No Duty to Notify Parents of Danger, Says NY Court"), this case arose from a vicious assault by several students against my client after they had threatened to do so at school the day before (and had already started a fight with my client before school officials). And despite knowing about the threat, the school never informed either set of parents of the threat.
In affirming the Appellate Division's dismissal of the case, however, the Court of Appeals stated as follows:
"Contrary to plaintiffs' urging, the school cannot be held liable for a failure to comply with a separate duty to notify Jayvaun's mother of the impending danger - and bullying. There is no statutory duty to inform parents about generalized threats made at school, and the circumstances here do not give rise to a common law duty to notify parents about threatened harm posed by a third party. This case did not involve threatened conduct that would occur while the child was in custody and control of school officials."
Needless to say, I am disappointed by the ruling, and feel that the decision was incorrect. But, I also recognize that there is a valid argument to be made on the other side of this equation, and that if the Court had ruled in my client's favor, it would - at least in theory - open Pandora's box and expand school liability, and that was not a path the Court wanted to take.