Yes, you might be able to sue your child’s school for premises liability, depending on the facts of your situation. The circumstances will have to satisfy all the factors for liability. Also, it can matter if the school is public or private.
Factors of Landowner Liability
There are three elements of premises liability, and all three must be present in your case to be successful in a lawsuit against the school.
- A hazardous condition existed on the property.
- The owner knew or should have known about the danger.
- The owner did not fix the problem or post adequate warnings to prevent injuries.
Let’s say that the school had fold-up bleachers in the large multi-purpose room that served as an auditorium and gymnasium. One set of the bleachers was missing some bolts. The school knew about the problem, but did not replace the bolts, take the affected bleachers out of service, or warn the students and others about the danger.
This fact pattern satisfies all three required elements for premises liability. The bleachers with missing bolts constituted a dangerous condition. The school knew about the missing bolts but did not fix the problem or warn potential users about the danger.
If the bleachers collapse and injure people, the school can be liable in a premises liability lawsuit.
Liability of Public and Private Schools
If your child was hurt at a private school, you can sue the school for premises liability just like any other business. The situation might be different, however, if the injury takes place at a public school.
Public school districts are government agencies. There are limitations on suing the government. In many circumstances, the government claims the right of sovereign immunity. This legal theory states that you cannot file a lawsuit against the government.
However, sometimes you can sue the government. We can evaluate whether your situation will allow you to sue the public school district. We will navigate through the unique process in these types of lawsuits.
Status of the Injured Person
The liability of the landowner will depend on why the injured person was on the property. The three categories of visitors to premises include:
If the landowner invited or induced the person to come on the property for any lawful purpose, the visitor is an invitee. The school must use ordinary care to keep the premises and approaches safe for invitees. A parent attending a school function, dropping off or picking up a child, or at the school for any lawful reason can be an invitee.
A student at a private school is an invitee because the school invites students onto the premises, since the school is in the business of providing education in exchange for tuition. A student at a public school is an invitee because he is onsite for a lawful purpose, since we have compulsory education laws.
A landowner has a lower duty of care toward a licensee, someone who is not an invitee but is not a trespasser. For these visitors, the school is only responsible for willful or wanton injury. An example is someone who dashes into the building to use the restroom.
Landowners are not allowed to harm trespassers intentionally. A student can be a trespasser if he enters school property after hours or goes into a restricted area. In these situations, the school likely will only be liable for intentional harm. Even if a student trespasses, the law might treat the student with more leniency than an adult, depending on how young the student is.
Types of Premises Liability Injuries
There are many ways a person can be hurt at a school. Injuries can happen:
- In the parking lot
- On the sidewalks
- In the gym
- In the laboratory
- In the cafeteria
- On stairwells
- In hallways
- In classrooms
Failure to perform needed repairs, shoddy maintenance, failure to supervise, failure to secure dangerous conditions like swimming pools, and general carelessness can cause or contribute to injuries at schools. Additional causes of harm at schools include structural collapse, fires, electrical accidents, and injuries on elevators and escalators.
Getting Help for an Injury at Your Child’s School
At S. Burke Law, we work hard to protect the rights of people who get hurt through the carelessness or intentional acts of others. We are proud to deliver personal service to our clients. Call us today at 404-842-7838 to get started.