Premises Liability for a Child’s Slip and Fall on Private School Property

There can be a variety of challenges faced when a child has been injured on school grounds, and the parents wish to pursue legal action. Public schools are sometimes protected from litigation because of governmental immunity. However, that isn’t the case when it comes to accidents that occur on the grounds of a private school. Still, there can be many other complex issues that arise in these premises liability cases. 

What is premises liability in regard to an accident that occurs on private school grounds?

First, it’s important to define premises liability. “Premises” refers to both buildings and land. “Liability” refers to the individual or entity that is responsible for those premises. Accidents on private school grounds could take place inside the school building or outside (such as on the playground).

In order to file a premises liability claim, there must be evidence of negligence on behalf of the owner — or others who work for the owner — such as a principal, janitor or teacher. This means that the school’s duty to exercise a reasonable level of care failed.

Another important element in a premises liability claim is that the act of negligence was foreseeable. For instance, if there was a gunman who came into the school building and injured a student, this likely wouldn’t be considered a foreseeable action. However, it also could be argued that the school failed to provide appropriate security measures such as locking doors.

Another issue that can be factored into this type of case is the school’s ability to prevent injuries. It is expected to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of students. For instance, a recent case in Woodbury Heights included a student who sued his school for band saw injuries suffered in shop class. Where the line gets drawn is dependent on the circumstances.

What types of accidents on private school grounds warrant filing a premises liability claim?

A clearer example in which a private school may be found responsible for a student’s injuries is faulty playground equipment. Children are injured all the time on swings, slides, monkey bars and other outdoor equipment. But if it’s discovered equipment was in need of repairs and resulted in the child getting injured, the school might be liable.

Another example is the ground underneath the playground equipment. In New York, the area underneath and around the equipment must be covered with soft material — such as wood mulch/chips, recycled rubber or sand. If instead the foundation is concrete, and a slip and fall occurs on school property resulting in a severe fracture to the leg, the school could be found responsible.

Accidents that occur inside the school building could result in a premises liability claim. Let’s say a janitor mops a stairway and doesn’t put up a warning sign or provide some type of barrier to keep others from using it. A child comes down the steps, suffers a slip and fall on school property, and hurts his or her head. Again, liability may be found with the school.

Is it necessary to hire an attorney if a child has been injured on private school grounds, and I wish to file a property liability claim?

There are many other scenarios in which a private school could be held responsible for an accident. Each case would need to be evaluated by an attorney to determine if the school failed to exercise reasonable care and/or took appropriate steps to prevent a slip and fall on school property.

Premises responsibility cases in general are very complicated. And when they involve holding a school accountable, they can become even more difficult. An attorney at Gacovino, Lake & Associates can explain options that may be available, such as filing a claim with the school’s insurance company or pursuing a lawsuit against it. Schedule a private consultation by calling our office today at 800-550-0000.

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