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Maryland Court Examines Duty of School Teachers to Students in Personal Injury Case

In Maryland, school systems have a duty to adequately train teachers, administrators, and personnel.  In a November 9, 2020 Maryland personal injury case, the Court of Special Appeals analyzed the nature and scope of the duty that teachers and administrators have to protect students from the heightened potential of injury.  The plaintiff brought the lawsuit on behalf of her middle school daughter, who was injured while engaging in a required physical education (P.E.) event at her school.

The event in the case was an obstacle course “monster run.”  The plaintiff alleged that during a capture the flag event, her daughter was pushed to the ground by an older boy.  She was knocked unconscious when she fell, and treated for a left knee dislocation at the hospital.  The plaintiff claimed that the school was negligent by failing to supervise the students and protect her daughter from injury and creating an unsafe environment, among other allegations.  The matter came before the appeals court after the lower court entered judgment in favor of the school board.

In Maryland, a negligence claim requires a duty of care owed by the defendant to the victim, a breach of that duty, causation, and injury.  On appeal, the court recognized that P.E. activities may present a greater risk of injury to students.  The court explained that, for purposes of civil liability, the scope of the duty of teachers and administrators to protect students is comprised of two elements: (1) designing the program in a way that takes account of and reasonably attempts to curb foreseeable risks of injury, and (2) supervising the students during the program.

The appeals court held that when the alleged breach of duty is a failure to supervise a P.E. event, the court must first determine whether, with greater supervision, the teacher could have prevented or lessened the impact of the injury.  If not, the court will then decide whether the injury was of a kind that should have been anticipated in the absence of sufficient supervision.

The court noted that five teachers were supervising 30 children during the event, and that there was no evidence of inadequate supervision by school personnel.  The court went on to find that the design of the obstacle course took into account the students’ safety, and that it was not reasonably foreseeable that a student would violate the instructions of the teachers by deliberately pushing another student, rather than just grabbing the flag.  Finally, the court found no recognized standard that would support prohibiting male and female children from participating in P.E. activities together.  Accordingly, the appeals court affirmed the judgment in favor of the school board.

If you or your child have been injured as a result of negligence, you may have legal recourse.  The Maryland personal injury attorneys at Foran & Foran can provide trustworthy advice after an accident or injury.  We handle a wide-range of negligence cases, including motor vehicle collisions, premises liability claims, wrongful death actions, and more.  Request a free consultation with one of our experienced lawyers by calling (301) 441-2022 or contacting Foran & Foran online.

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