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February 7, 2019

A school district employee's good faith in reporting allegations of child abuse in an educational setting triggers Education Law §1128(4) immunity from liability

A school district employee's good faith in reporting allegations of child abuse in an educational setting triggers Education Law §1128(4) immunity from liability
Bratge v Simons, 167 AD3d 1458

Among the issues raised by Plaintiffs in this appeal was the claim that Supreme Court erred in dismissing the complaint with respect to Plaintiffs' allegations that a school district and certain of its officers  and employees has subjected them to malicious prosecution. The Appellate Division held that Supreme Court properly dismissed this claim.

To obtain recovery for malicious prosecution, said the court, a plaintiff must establish [1] that a criminal proceeding was commenced; [2] that it was terminated in favor of the accused; [3] that it lacked probable cause; and [4] that the proceeding was brought out of actual malice."

In this instance, said the Appellate Division, it is undisputed that there was "a judicial determination of probable cause" in the underlying criminal action which "can be overcome only upon a showing of fraud, perjury or the withholding of evidence" and the Plaintiffs' complaint failed to allege such misconduct.

The Appellate Division also noted that the documentary evidence established that School District merely "furnished information to law enforcement authorities." The law enforcement authority then exercised its own judgment in determining whether criminal charges should be filed. Citing Quigley v City of Auburn, 267 AD2d 978, the court observed that "It is well settled that such actions by a civilian complainant . . . do not render the complainant liable for . . . malicious prosecution."

In addition, the Appellate Division commented that Education Law §1128(4) provides that School District employees named as defendants in such an action with immunity from liability with respect to their good faith compliance with the mandatory reporting requirements of  Education Law §1126.

§1126 sets out the duties of employees specifically enumerated in this section upon receipt of an allegation of child abuse in an educational setting. The Appellate Division said that the documentary evidence submitted by defendants in this action established that they acted reasonably and in good faith in transmitting a report of alleged child abuse in an educational setting consistent with the requirements of §1126.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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