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Georgia Court Affirms Teacher’s Immunity in Recent Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia wrongful death lawsuit involving the death of a student while at school. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss the state’s official immunity doctrine as it applied to the defendant teacher’s decision to leave her classroom and ask another teacher to keep an eye on her students.

ClassroomUltimately, the court concluded that the school’s written policy to “never” leave the students unsupervised left some discretion in the hands of teachers. Thus, the teacher’s actions in leaving the class were discretionary, and she was entitled to official immunity.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the parents of a student who died after falling and breaking his collarbone while in class. At the time of the accident, the teacher in charge of the class had left momentarily and had asked the teacher of a neighboring classroom to keep an eye on her students.

When the teacher was out of the room, the plaintiff’s son started roughhousing with another student. At some point, the plaintiff’s son fell to the floor, dislocating his collarbone. By the time the boy was found and transported to the hospital, he died from the loss of blood due to a laceration caused by the dislocated collarbone.

The student’s parents filed a wrongful death case against their son’s teacher, arguing that her negligence in leaving the room unsupervised led to the death of their son. The teacher, however, claimed that she was entitled to official immunity because her actions were discretionary in nature.

The court had to determine whether the teacher had discretion in carrying out the supervision of her classroom. The court began by noting that, in general, a teacher’s duty to supervise the children in her classroom does involve discretion. However, the court also acknowledged that in some cases, a written rule can turn a discretionary act into a ministerial one. The question was whether the school’s policy to “never” leave students unattended rendered the teacher’s duty a ministerial one.

The court concluded that the school’s policy did leave room for a teacher’s discretion. The court explained that a teacher must use judgment when deciding when to leave the room, and how to arrange for the students’ supervision while she is gone. That being the case, the teacher’s choice to leave the classroom and ask another teacher to watch over her class was entitled to official immunity.

Has Your Child Been Hurt While at School?

If you have a child who has recently been injured while at school, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Georgia premises liability lawsuit. While the general rule is that government actors are entitled to immunity, immunity will not always attach. The dedicated Georgia personal injury attorneys at McAleer Law have extensive experience handling all types of Georgia personal injury cases, including those naming government employees or agencies as defendants. To learn more, and to speak with an attorney about your case, call 404-622-5337 to schedule your free consultation today.

See More Posts:

Georgia Court Determines Steep Stairway Without Handrail May Constitute Hazard in Recent Premises Liability Case, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, December 4, 2017.

Court Excludes Key Witness at Trial Due to Plaintiff’s Failure to Identify Witness Before Trial, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, September 27, 2017.