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Monday, June 23, 2014

Special duty must be demonstrated in order to recover for an alleged negligent performance of a governmental function


Special duty must be demonstrated in order to recover for an alleged negligent performance of a governmental function
2014 NY Slip Op 04464, Appellate Division, Second Department

While employed by the New York City Department of Education (Department) as a school social worker [Worker] allegedly was injured when two kindergarten students collided with her in a school hallway. Worker commenced an action against the Department and the City of New York, alleging negligent supervision.

The Supreme Court granted Department's motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint. The Appellate Division sustained the lower court’s ruling. The court explained that a school district may not be held liable for the negligent performance of its governmental function of supervising children in its charge, “at least in the absence of a special duty to the person injured.” Under the doctrine that a school district acts in loco parentis with respect to its minor students, a school district owes a "special duty" to the students themselves in contrast to owing a special duty to teachers, administrators, and other adults on or off of school premises. Thus a school district may be held liable to a student when it breaches that duty, so long as all other necessary elements of a negligence cause of action are established.

In contrast, this special duty owed to the students themselves does not, as a general matter, carry over to teachers, administrators, and other adults on or off of school premises.

Here, said the Appellate Division, the Department established  prima facie, that it did not owe the Worker a special duty and Worker did not raise a triable issue of fact.

Under the circumstances, it appears that Worker would be able to claim Workers’ Compensation benefits if otherwise applicable with respect to her alleged injury but has no cause of action for any alleged negligent supervision of the students on the part of the Department.
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