Let's be blunt:

In the vast majority of situations where schools have been negligent, that negligence does not translate into being a viable lawsuit against the school.

The reasons for this are several, such as the inability to prove that the school was, or should have been, aware of the impending danger to the student (in legalese, "notice"), but one reason in particular tends to crop up with great frequency - and is, at least in my view and experience - the predominant factor as to why, in most instances, schools' negligence doesn't mean there's a lawsuit that is worth the time and financial investment. (Parenthetically, what follows is also true with regard to other types of personal injury cases, such as trip and fall or car accident cases, but in my experience, the problem I'm addressing here tends to arise far more frequently in the school negligence context). 

Stated differently, we're not talking about a particular mistake that may ruin your case - it's that absent this specific factor, there is no case there to begin with.

You Can't Have a Viable School Negligence Case Without This

At its core, it boils down to one threshold issue:

If the student did not sustain a truly serious injury.

To be perfectly clear, I'm not suggesting that parents don't have the right to be hopping mad at their kids' schools for the way they handle various situations, such as not calling the parents when their child is injured, or taking the child's temperature when they've suffered a broken arm, and just sending them back to class (yes, I've gotten LOTS of those kinds of calls - and yes, it's happened with several of my own kids), or, even worse, that the school lost track of your special needs child for several hours (and I've gotten a few of those kinds of calls as well); it's just that these failures on the part of the school, standing alone, don't rise to a level that warrants a full-blown lawsuit.

Here's why:

Imagine that you sue over any of the foregoing factual scenarios. At some point, you (and your lawyer) will end up in front of a judge, who will say something along these lines: 

"Mrs. Smith; I appreciate that you're extremely upset over the way your son's school handled his situation, and there is absolutely no excuse for losing track of him. After all, the school's primary responsibility is your son's safety while he is in their care.

"But I must ask you: What are your quantifiable damages as a result of what happened here? He didn't break any bones, he wasn't traumatized to the point that he needs ongoing treatment and medication, and thankfully, he didn't require corrective surgery. So, again, I must ask you:

"What are your demonstrable, provable damages?"

Absent an acute injury that resulted directly from the school's negligence, you won't have a good answer for the judge.

And that's the problem.

And it's insurmountable.

Jonathan Cooper
Connect with me
Non-Compete, Trade Secret and School Negligence Lawyer
Post A Comment