Maryland Court Considers Liability of School Board After Students Win Lawsuit Against School Employee

Personal injuries may arise out of many diverse situations, including the workplace.  In some cases, if someone caused an injury while on the job, their employer may be held liable for negligent hiring and supervision.  In a February 21, 2019 case, three students brought a Maryland negligence claim against the school board based on the conduct of one of its employees.  The students’ claims against the school board were dismissed by the circuit court, but they ultimately prevailed on their claims against the employee.

The case arose out of an incident between the students and a school police officer.  The students alleged that, for no apparent reason, the officer had physically assaulted them with her hands, pepper spray, and her baton.  The officer later pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree assault.  The students filed lawsuits against the officer for assault and against the school board for negligent hiring, retention, supervision, and credentialing.

The circuit court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims against the school board with prejudice, following a summary judgment motion.  The matter proceeded to trial on their claims against the officer.  The jury ultimately found that the officer had violated the constitutional rights of the students and awarded them damages totaling $280,000.  The plaintiffs subsequently asked the school board to satisfy the judgments.  When the school board refused, the students filed a motion with the circuit court, arguing that the board must indemnify the officer because the acts were committed within the scope of her employment.  The court granted the motion, and the school board appealed.

In Maryland, a school board’s sovereign immunity is partially waived in some situations provided by statute.  Under Section 5-518, a lawsuit in tort may be brought directly against an employee if the employee was acting within the scope of her employment, without malice or gross negligence, and the school board is joined as a party.  Any judgment would be entered against both the employee and school board, although the judgment would only be executed against the school board and not against the employee, individually.

On appeal, the court noted that the plaintiffs’ claims for indemnification had been dismissed by the circuit court when it granted summary judgment in favor of the school board.  Because the plaintiffs did not appeal the summary judgment decision, or argue that the school board’s ongoing presence was required to satisfy an indemnification obligation, the appeals court held that the issue of indemnification could not now be re-litigated.  Concluding that the instant motion to execute the judgment against the school board was barred, the appeals court ruled in favor of the school board.

At Foran & Foran, P.A., our Maryland personal injury lawyers can provide legal advice to individuals who have been damaged by the negligence of another person or business.  We pursue compensation on behalf of plaintiffs in medical malpractice claims, car and truck collision cases, premises liability actions, and more.  Schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced negligence attorneys by calling (301) 441-2022 or contacting us online.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Plaintiff Wins Case Against County, Police Department After Violent Arrest, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published March 22, 2018

Public Duty Doctrine Shields Police Officers from Liability in Maryland Negligence Suit, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published February 3, 2019