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Recent Appellate Opinion Discusses Government Liability and Its Outer Limits

Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a decision in a tragic case stemming from the death of a seventh-grade student that occurred at school while his teacher was out of the room. In the case, the court had the opportunity to discuss when government immunity is appropriate in situations in which a government employee’s negligence is alleged. In this case, unfortunately for the plaintiffs, the court determined that the allegedly negligent teacher was entitled to immunity.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the parents of a seventh-grade student in the defendant’s American Literature class. One day, the teacher stepped out of the room and asked another teacher to listen in on the class while she was gone. However, while the student’s teacher was absent, he and another boy were horse playing when he fell to the ground, fracturing his collarbone. The fracture caused serious blood loss. By the time the teacher returned and called 911, it was too late. The student died later that day in the hospital.

The principal called the teacher to his office to discuss the student’s death. The teacher initially lied to the principal, telling him that she was present when the student fell. It was only later that the principal determined this was not the case. The teacher continued to offer several other versions of what happened, eventually testifying that she was using the restroom at the time of the accident.

The student’s parents filed a wrongful death case against the teacher, arguing her negligence was a cause of their son’s death. In response, the teacher asserted her government immunity. Ultimately, the court upheld the teacher’s immunity, noting that a teacher’s decision on how to supervise and control her students is a discretionary decision that is entitled to immunity. In so holding, the court rejected the boy’s parents’ argument that the teacher’s actions constituted a dereliction of her duties. The court explained that, since the teacher asked another teacher to listen in on her class while she was away, the teacher did “just enough” to maintain her immunity.

Government Immunity in Florida Personal Injury Lawsuits

In Florida, both state and local governments enjoy immunity from some personal injury lawsuits, depending on the facts surrounding the allegations. Generally speaking, a government employee or entity is, by default, immune from liability stemming from  accidents. However, the Florida Legislature has listed certain situations in which the state “waives” this immunity, opening the government up to liability. It is important for anyone who is considering pursuing a lawsuit against a government entity or employee to speak with a dedicated Florida personal injury attorney prior to doing so.

Have You Been a Victim of a Government Employee’s Negligent Actions?

If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of an accident involving the negligence of a state or local government employee, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. However, as noted above, government employees are sometimes entitled to official immunity, shielding them from liability. A skilled personal injury attorney can assist you in the preparation of your case and advise you of which options you have moving forward. Call 800-753-5529 to set up a free consultation with a personal injury attorney today.

More Blog Posts:

Court Permits Lawsuit Filed by Motorist Injured by Escaped Farm Animal, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published January 17, 2017.

Claims Against Florida Public Entities Are Subject to Strict Notice Requirements, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published January 2, 2017.

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