Tort Liability and Contract Liability
A tort is a legal term for "a wrong." The "tort law" is composed of state statutes and court decisions that gives one the right to sue someone who causes harm to them, whether it's a drunk driver, a corporation that manufactures a defective product, a credit card company that overcharges you, or a government bureaucrat that breaks the law or a school official such as a teacher or principal. The law of the state in which the school is located determines a school's legal responsibility for supervision during instructional time and school-sponsored activities. In most instances, the way its state courts have interpreted the law developed through cases tried in its courts rather than law passed by its legislature. This means there is no one uniform standard of legal liability that applies to all U.S. educational entities. Additionally, there currently is no specific federal law in this area with which a school must comply. However, there are some general principles that most state courts follow that provide some guidance to help determine if a school is providing adequate supervision in the eyes of the law. Because these principles may vary from state to state, a school's legal counsel is the best guide as to whether a school's particular supervision/emergency care plan will be deemed adequate if challenged in a state's courts.
The law apportions torts into three classes: negligence, strict liability (where one's duty is defined in statute), and intentional torts. Most of what follows deals with the theory of liability that arises in a school context under the tort of negligence. The most common legal claim that is made against a school is that the school was negligent in the provision of that care. In most states, to prove a school was negligent the person making the claim must establish in court that:
1.There was a duty of care or obligation recognized by law that required the school to meet a certain standard of conduct, and
2.The school failed to meet that standard, and
3.The school's failure to meet that standard caused an injury to the person, and
4.A true loss or damage resulted to that person.
The general rule is that the duty of care owed by a school to its average student is what is deemed as "ordinary" duty of care. Constant supervision is not required of all activities. Instead, only reasonable care must be taken to protect the average student against reasonably foreseeable dangers. In school law, torts of negligence grow out of a duty or standard of care that the school as an institution or its personnel owes to others who come on school grounds. Essentially, in school law, school personnel must protect students against unreasonable risks of injury. The standard of care increases as the age or capacity of the student to protect her/himself decreases. Since young people act on impulse, adult caregivers must account for this impulsiveness in the course of supervising and instructing students.
Administration must be prepared for anything. School property must be safe for anyone that is on school property. The standard of care due people who trespass on school property is the lowest because they shouldn't be on school property in the first place. Licensees are people who do business with the school and visitors are those you induce or invite to come. Hence, liability is higher if these people are injured on school property because you didn't maintain it properly. Because, however, schools primarily deal with children and one can foresee a child's returning to school property after the school day, the doctrine of means that schools have a high standard of care owed to trespassing students. Not only could they drown in the swimming pool, they could fry their little brains by inhaling the fumes from industrial cleaning supplies. And they could be harmed by stepping into a pothole as they flee from is risking foolishly a tort suit. A business would have a lower...
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