School Law - Citizen Injury on School Grounds

School Law - Citizen Injury on School Grounds

TO: Mr. Mike Mathis, Superintendent
FROM: Ms. Sharon Smith
DATE: February 8, 2002
RE: Citizen’s Injury and School’s Liability /Responsibility

Mr. John Smith called today regarding an injury his wife received while on school property. She tripped on a broken sidewalk in front of the school and broke her arm. Mr. Smith requested that the school pay for her medical bill incurred from the injury.

According to state law and federal law, neither the school nor the school district is liable for personal injury in this situation. The Texas Tort Claims Act states that liability can be imposed only when the injury arises from the negligent use or operation of a motor vehicle operated by a school officer or employee within the scope of the employment. As there was no motor vehicle involved in this unfortunate accident, the school district is not liable under §101.051 of the Civil Practices and Remedies Code.

The Texas Education Code §22.051 states that professional school employees are provided with “qualified immunity” from tort liability. Therefore, our professional school employees cannot be individually sued with negligence over this situation. Our maintenance workers, however, are not considered “professional employees” under the state requirements for tort liability. They are not protected with the qualified immunity from lawsuits resulting from negligence, but they are offered protection through our insurance policy.

Federal law specifies that a litigant may hold liable every person who has deprived the litigant of rights protected by the U.S. Constitution or by federal law, when that person has done so acting under color of state law. The United States Code (volume 42 §1983) provides a broader basis for litigation in federal court, and it might be possible for this case to be framed under federal law instead of state law. Since a §1983 lawsuit basically involves a charge of an abuse of governmental authority that deprives...

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