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Maryland Plaintiff Wins Appeal in Negligence Case Against School Board

School safety is an important issue for many parents.  In Maryland, schools have a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect students from harm.  If a school breaches its duty to a student, the school may be held liable for the resulting injuries.  In a May 7, 2021 case, a third-grade student and her mother filed a Maryland personal injury action against the local school board.  The plaintiffs alleged negligence for injuries the student received when a classmate threw a chair.

The incident occurred in the plaintiff’s classroom at her elementary school.  Two of the students began arguing over a pencil.  The teacher separated them by taking one outside of the classroom.  When the other student then started throwing desks and chairs, the teacher instructed everyone else to exit the room.  The plaintiff was the last to leave, and as she rushed to get to the door, the student threw a chair that struck the plaintiff in the neck.  The plaintiff was sent to the school nurse and then an urgent care facility.

The plaintiffs’ lawsuit against the school alleged negligence by the teacher in failing to provide adequate supervision when she removed the student from the classroom.  The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the school, finding that the plaintiff’s injury resulted from the unforeseen acts of another student and could not have been reasonably anticipated by the teacher.  An appeal followed. 

To establish a Maryland negligence action, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant was under a duty to protect the plaintiff from injury, the defendant breached that duty, the plaintiff was injured, and the injury resulted from the defendant’s breach of duty.  Here, the school had a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect the plaintiff from harm.  

In assessing whether there was a breach of duty, the appeals court explained that a teacher is held to a standard of reasonable care exercised by a person of ordinary prudence.  The court concluded that the record presented a factual issue as to whether the teacher breached her duty by standing in the doorway, rather than entering the classroom, when the student started throwing chairs.

The court also found that issues of fact remained with respect to causation.  Typically, causation involves a determination of whether the injury was foreseeable.  The student involved in the fight had never exhibited violent or erratic behavior prior to that incident.  The plaintiff argued, however, that after the student started throwing things, it was foreseeable that others could be injured.  The appeals court ultimately held that, given the time span in which the student was throwing chairs, it was a factual issue whether a teacher could have intervened to prevent the plaintiff’s injury.  The judgment was reversed accordingly, and the case was remanded for further proceedings.

At Foran & Foran, P.A., our skilled lawyers can provide legal advice after an injury or accident.  We represent plaintiffs in negligence and personal injury claims arising out of medical malpractice, premises liability, and more.  To request a free consultation with an accident attorney, call (301) 441-2022 or contact Foran & Foran online.

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