Q: In kindergarten, Johnny was waiting his turn to use the bathroom. Absent-mindedly, he placed his hand inside the hinged side of the bathroom door. A fellow student entered the bathroom and closed the door on Johnny’s finger. The accident occurred during rest time, when the students were resting their heads on their tables. The teacher would permit one table of four after another to stand in line for the bathroom. The school has told me that the kindergartners had been instructed at the beginning of the school year to stay on a carpet placed a few feet from the bathroom door while waiting their turn. The teacher claims that she would usually reprimand any student who failed to comply with the rule. The teacher says that, at the time of the accident, she was at her desk on the other side of the room, watching the students resting at their tables, and not watching the students lining up at the bathroom. She did not observe the accident.
A: While a school district is not an insurer of the safety of its students – since it cannot reasonably be expected to continuously supervise and control all of their movements and activities – it has a duty to adequately supervise the students in its charge and will be held liable for foreseeable injuries proximately related to the absence of adequate supervision. However, from what you tell me, the supervision may well have been adequate. As an alternative, perhaps there was excessive space between the door and the surface to which the hinge attached it. Perhaps such doors are supposed to have protective guards. If so, your attorney may do better with an argument that this bathroom door was inherently dangerous and defective, for a kindergartener, and that the school had notice of this defect. You might even be able to show that another child had been injured at the school in the past in a similar way. Despite this, the school took no action to correct the door after that other child was injured. Whether a dangerous or defective condition exists on property, to create liability, depends on the peculiar facts and circumstances and is generally a question of fact for the jury.
By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial
The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.
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