Supervision Liability Outline & Case Notes (c) copyright 1998 J.C. Kozlowski
VERNON PARISH SCHOOL BOARD
343 So.2d 417 (La.App. 1977)
P, 7, fell on stump on plygrd, lacerated pancreas. P: negligent supervision & allowing dangerous condition on plygrd.
Pine tree, hurricane winds, janitor cleaned up, left stump 20-24" rounded, did not consider hazardous, did not report it.
Noon recess, 90, grades 1-3, D saw stump, cautioned children, stay away, throwing twigs, 30-40' from stump at see-saws.
D saw P in vicinity of stump, warned to stay away, later saw P laying on stump, scolded P for disobeying;
P 2-3 min later, no distress, showed stomach bruise, not considered serious, in afternoon P became sick, D thought virus.
Trial Ct concluded stump not jagged, but rounded & smooth, corroborate no penetration of P's stomach.
Nothing indicating D remiss in supervision; supervising play, cautioned children re stump; again cautioned P, no reason P would not comply.
No showing D could have prevented P's contact with stump from position near see-saws.
Accidents children at play, happen so quickly unless direct supervision of every child (recognize impossible), accident almost impossible to prevent.
School teacher charged with the duty of supervising the play of children must exercise a high degree of care toward the children,
However, the teacher is not the absolute insurer of the safety of the children she supervises.
Our law requires that the supervision be reasonable and commensurate with the age of the children and the attendant circumstances.
No requirement supervisor, especially where play of some 90 children is being monitored, have each child under constant and unremitting scrutiny.
Stump in question did not constitute a hazardous or dangerous condition.
Stump in itself is not of a hazardous or dangerous nature to warrant the concern which P would have the court believe.
In a rural area such as Simpson, trees are predominant. Trees and their components are nearly everywhere.
As such, children are going to play in and around them. In doing so, this doesn't cause parents much concern.
We then, as parents, should not expect more of others than we do of ourselves. We cannot insulate our children from all risks which they may encounter.
The stump in question was found to be an ordinary stump, squared off on top with no jagged or knife-like protrusions.
Presented no more hazard than would trash barrel, bench, water fountain, or any other of many objects normally and usually found on school playgrounds.
School cannot foresee and guard against all dangers incident to rashness of children, not the insurer of the lives or safety of children. AFFIRMED.
TURKEY RUN COMMUNITY SCHOOL CORP.
411 N.E.2d 614 (1980)
Supreme Court of Indiana
P, 7, 2d grade, collided with 6 yr old, morning recess, bumped heads; 10 teachers, 7-8 supervising, more than required, 188 children,
2 teachers close, looked up, unable to warn. Trial: instantaneous, no opportunity to warn, D exercised reasonable care.
Appeals reversed. Possible to draw inference teachers inattentive, failure to observe or warn after observing dangerous situation.
Supervised recess period is generally accepted as a normal school procedure for elementary children.
Running and playing tag are normal recess activities of young children.
No oral or written directive was given to teachers to prohibit children from running on the playground during a supervised recess.
There were no abnormal, dangerous or extra-hazardous conditions present prior to the collision.
Neither P or the other student were looking where they were going; they were both looking behind them. They ran into each other and bumped heads.
Teacher looked up as they came together and she did not have time to warn them.
State recognizes a duty for school authorities to exercise reasonable care and supervision for the safety of the children under their control.
Persons entrusted with children, whose characteristics make it likely that they may do somewhat unreasonable things,
Special responsibility recognized by the common law to supervise their charges. Restatement Torts 2d § 320
only possible "dangerous situation developing" was the fact that students were running on the playground at recess.
No teacher can observe every student at every instant on a playground. To look at one is to look away from another.
Even if the evidence showed that one or both teachers were looking in another direction, it would not give rise to an inference of negligence
2 students running toward each other would not necessarily indicate peril to them until they became close enough apparent they would collide.
Students often run toward each other, and in every direction, when they are on a playground.
The evidence here was that when one of the teachers saw this happen, it was too late to give any warning and that the collision was instantaneous.
Certainly there is some remote risk of injury in all human existence and certainly in all locomotion.
Running in groups and running in games is also more hazardous than running alone, yet group running and game running are not unusual activities in school
We therefore doubt that there is any unreasonable risk of injury involved, so long as there are no unusual conditions present.
There was no indication that there was any event dangerous condition, dangerous instrumentality
Or special knowledge of students having a troublesome or mischievous nature being on the playground area known to the supervising teachers
School personnel here clearly exercised ordinary and reasonable care for the safety of the children under their authority.
Since running on the playground did not present a dangerous or unusual condition, under no set of facts presented could it be said that a duty arose
For teachers to pay particular attention to a particular student who was running.
More than likely most of the children were running about at the same time or at one time or another.
unreasonable burden on supervision if negligent not observing a particular student at the precise moment a collision was imminent.
A duty to warn contemplates an opportunity to know of the danger and to have time to communicate it.
Perfect attention to this incident might not have prevented it. There were also 186 other students needing attention at the same time.
To hold the school personnel liable under the set of facts presented here would require them to be insurers of the safety of children
judgment of the trial court entering summary judgment in favor of D affirmed.
STANLEY v. BOARD OF ED.
CITY OF CHICAGO
293 N.E.2d 417 (Ill.App. 1973)
P, $40K award, plygrd, struck on head by baseball bat, D's summer rec program, fastpitch baseball, rubber ball, softball bats supplied by D.
D's leader, 17, responsible younger children not playing too close to older boys; handing out & setting up equipment at time.
4 games being played, bat flew, some moved; 4 boys, 16, started game, P asked to move, moved & returned 25-30' from game; bat untaped hit bldg & P.
P: negligent supplying defective bat, failing to warn P, failing to supervise.
Testimony bat untaped and handle worn, jury could find defective & unsafe.
Whether no duty to warn P because circumstances known, appreciated & obvious.
P, 8, brother 12; known characteristics of children whether or not sufficient care for the safety of a child has been exercised.
Children cannot and do not ordinarily exercise the same degree of prudence and care for their own safety as adults
Imposes obligation of exercising more vigilance and caution than might be sufficient with respect to an adult
Conduct which might reach the standard of ordinary care with respect to an adult might, for child, amount to negligence or even gross negligence.
known characteristic of many 8-year-old boys to ignore the directions of 16-year-old boys whom they see to be but older members of the same class.
Here, conceded that it was Iversen's duty to make sure that the smaller children were not playing close to where the teenagers were playing.
Evidence defendant made available equipment which is ordinarily discarded because it was not as safe as it should be
Evidence Iversen, instead of supervising, was playing basketball.
Kowalczak himself testified that in his opinion perhaps 50 feet would be a safe distance between teenagers playing fast-pitching and eight-year-olds.
We conclude that the evidence presented issues of fact which were appropriately submitted to the jury re supervision. AFFIRMED.
FAGAN v. SUMMERS
498 P.2d 1227 (1972)
Supreme Court of Wyoming
P, 7, noon recess, lost sight in eye, struck by rock, student threw rock, hit larger rock, bounced up & struck P.
No requirement constant and unremitting scrutiny all precise spots where every phase of play activities is being pursued;
No compulsion that general supervision be continuous and direct at all times and all places.
Common knowledge, susceptible of judicial notice, that small boys may indulge in horseplay when a teacher's back is turned.
We must recognize the impossibility of a teacher supervising every minute detail of every activity.
A teacher cannot anticipate the varied and unexpected acts which occur daily in any about the school premises.
Where the time between an act of a student and injury to a fellow student is so short that the teacher has no opportunity to prevent injury,
it cannot be said that negligence of the teacher is a proximate cause of the injury.
P: district should have put the playground in better shape and should have provided more supervisors.
We realize there are cases which hold a school district can be liable for injury resulting from a dangerous and defective condition of a playground.
We have found no case, however, which holds rocks on the ground to be a dangerous and defective condition. Left on the ground, a rock will hurt no one.
If assume D negligent for allowing rocks to be on the playground, hold 3P act who throws rocks and injures P intervening cause.
Intervening cause: is one which comes into active operation after a defendant's negligent act or omission has occurred;
Ordinarily the defendant will be relieved of liability by an unforeseeable intervening cause.
P was not injured by negligence, if any, from rocks being on the playground.
Injury was clearly caused by the intervening act of a third person-the boy who picked up and threw the rock.
Some such missiles could doubtless be found upon any school grounds; even if assume defective, must est. proximate cause was the defect.
Proximate cause of P's injury was the act of his fellow student in throwing a rock, not D's failure to maintain the playground in a safe condition.
Failure to Supervise School Playground Merry-Go-Round
Rollins v. Concordia Parish School Board
P, 9 yrs old, 4th grade, fractured leg
fell off merry-go-round during P.E. class
40 students in class,
girls on playground equipment
boys playing basketball 15 ft away
substitute teacher, Green, supervising class
walking between 2 groups
merrry-go-round spinning "too fast"
recognizing danger told girls to slow down & get off
heard 2 boys arguing over basketball, left girls
Green turned away from rapidly spinning merry-go-round
walked 20 ft away,
heard girls yell Lisa hurt
Trial court found School negligent
in not properly supervising playground activities
found P 50% at fault, contributory negligence
Standard of Care Imposed Upon Teachers
Exercise reasonable supervision
commensurate with age of children
and attendant circumstances
not insurer of safety
Greater degree of care must be exercised
if student required to use or come into contact with an inherently dangerous object
or, to engage in activity where reasonably foreseeable injury may occur
if exercise of reasonable supervision under circumstances
would not have prevented act which caused injury
proof of causal connection between negligent supervision & accident
Green abandoned what she had determined to be a perilous situation
to investigate an argument over a basketball
2 regular classes
combined to allow one teacher a free period
another teacher available,
could have been present to help supervise class
Green testified 30 seconds elapsed
between admonition to girls & injury
didn't know if boys were actually fighting or just hollering
walking to basketball court, never reached boys
Instead of making sure children heeded
Green abandoned observed perilous situation
to deal with another situation not urgent or perilous
Rapid speed of merry-go-round
& Green ordering girls to get off
without making sure children stopped & got off
activity reasonably foreseeable injury would occur
Trial court could reasonably find
especially in light of fact
another teacher was available,
but not used, to supervise class
Trial court could reasonably find
P guilty of contributory negligence
riding inside of merry-go-round
and apparently trying to get off while machine in motion
Playground Supervision in Fall from Monkey Bars
Collins v. Bossier Parish School Board
P injured in fall during kindergarten recess
fall caused by another boy
wrapping legs around P
Playground half size of football field
duty teacher assigned to supervise approx. 100 children during recess
At beginning of school year
& during Gym classes
children told how to use playground equipment
instructed only one child at at time on horizontal bars
when violation observed,
teacher reprimands child immediately
At time of injury,
teacher preventing several children from throwing dirt at one another
teacher did not see Eugene fall
if observed, would have instantaly reprimanded child wrapping legs around P
No evidence more teachers on duty would have prevented incident
constant supervision of all students is not required
absent "ball and chain"
Issue: whether teacher/student ratio
less than approx 1 to 100
is adequate supervision during recess
Precedent have found
1/90 & 2/200 adequate
1/150 & 1/180
Trial court found Board & teacher not negligent in supervision of children during recess
Disabled Athlete Fatally Injured Enroute to Gym
Foster, 17, school for mentally retarded
IQ 52; mental age 7 yrs. 4 mos.
Member of Special Olympics basketball team at school
practice sessions during regular P.E. classes
indoor gym in use by Jr. high
practice on outdoor dirt court
Gym teacher arranged for use of municipal indoor gym
teachers Grant & Gray planned to take team during lunch
3 blocks to gym, short distance decided to walk
rather than seek transportation from school board
Neither teacher had taken team to gym
had only used park gym once before for picnic
Gray gathered team, 10 or 11 boys
informed Grant teaching math class, ready to go to gym
Grant instructed them to wait until finished teaching class
Gray used time to instruct youngsters about safety precautions
particularly directed at street crossing
Grant still not finished;
team became increasingly "fidgety"
Gray advised Grant take team to Park alone
Grant agreed, would follow
in her car
Gray departed on planned route, 5 or 6 boys ran ahead
disregarded admonitions of Gray & crossed street to park
Gray returned to other 5, including Foster
lined up at street waiting to cross
traffic backed up
Foster ran between 2 stopped cars
saw car coming, stopped & slipped
run over by oncoming car
died 3 days later
Trial: Grant negligent supervision, instruction, choice of route, failure to provide transportation
entered judgment for plaintiff
Issue: nature of duty owed by teachers to student
for trip to park
Foster risk factors
poor auditory ability,
short attention span,
difficulty in following instructions
limited experience in coping with heavy traffic
conduct classes so as not to expose students to
unreasonable risk of injury
duty more onerous when students mentally retarded
No duty of continuous supervision on campus
duty of closer supervision than campus
when walking trip across street with heavy traffic
Duty to have adequate number of supervisory personnel accompany team
assure youths kept under control
& protected from hazards
traveling to & from park
Duty of close supervision over students at all times
particularly when in vicinity of moving vehicles
Duty to choose safest walking route from school to park
route along which students exposed to fewest traffic hazards
Issue: whether teachers should have foreseen likelihood
adolescent with mental age of 7 or 8 might act impulsively
as Foster did under circumstances
Foreseeability: what is likely enough in setting of modern life
reasonably thoughtful man would take account of it
guiding practical conduct
Teachers should have anticipated or foreseen likelihood
Foster would act impulsively under circumstances
Youths understanding excited about excursion off campus to practice basketball
extended wait heightened nervous tension
Situation difficult to control
youths physical energy matched chronological age
but, self-control & judgment of much younger children
Foster's limited attention span, perception & understanding
limited effect of oral instructions prior to trip
Given foreseeable risk of injury,
teachers breached duty
group not accompanied by sufficient number of supervisory personnel
would have prevented break up of team running across street
Teachers: Foster contributory negligence
dashed across street in violation of safety instructions
nothing less than continuous supervision, or restraint, would have prevented accident
Duty imposed designed to protect against type of risk
experience teaches presence adequate adult supervision
tends to curb proclivity of immature youngsters to act impulsively
protect them against their own folly
Contributory negligence & assumption of risk defenses illogical
would bar liability because youngster engaged in conduct
which supervision duty should have prevented
$50K judgment for Plaintiff AFFIRMED.
Written Standard Not Followed in Golf Mishap
Brahatcek v. Millard School District
David, 9th grade, 14 yrs
died after being struck in head by golf club during P.E. class
2 groups hitting "wiffle balls" to opposite walls of gym
student teacher helping another student away from David
teacher supervising girls,
would have supervised entire class
if saw Haley devoting attention to one student
Haley told not to spend too much time with one student
Pane, principal, written instructions for mandatory golf class
specifically set forth manner of instruction
develop golf skills with co-equal consideration of safe instruction
Written rules of instruction
described physical arrangement for golf activity
teachers followed quite different arrangement
Payne testified golf instruction to be provided
according to school's written rules
trial court entered judgment for P, $53,570.00
Liability for instructor's lack of supervision
risk reasonably to be perceived defines the duty to be obeyed
lack of supervision must be proximate cause of injury
Lack of supervision was proximate cause of death
9th grader had never swung golf club
conducted indoors in close quarters
physical arrangement contrary to rules
Question whether adequate instruction
regarding use of golf club
prior to commencement of class
in which injury occurred
Teaching procedure outlines
by regular instructor
not followed by student teacher
student teacher not properly informed of procedure
Trial court could reasonably find
ineffective observation & attention by student teacher
and, ordinary care or supervision would have prevented incident
Whether action of other student
efficient intervening cause of injury
whether reasonably foreseeable consequence
of negligent supervision
no question of foreseeability,
proper supervision would have prevented death
Whether David guilty of contributory negligence
fail to exercise ordinary care & prudence to avoid obvious danger
capable of understanding and discretion
Whether minor, 14 yrs
sufficient knowledge, discretion, & appreciation of danger
question of fact for jury
whether defense of contributory negligence
Trial court could reasonably find
David not guilty of contributory negligence
Golf required subject,
9th grader had no understanding of game
not clear properly warned of apparent danger in sport
swinging golf club,
NOT contributory negligence
unless knowledge of danger made known to child
and child commits act with appreciation of amount of danger
Not clear decedent had sufficient knowledge of danger
not familiar with game, had never held golf club
had not attended first class where instruction & practice provided
Had not received any instruction
on any aspect of game from teacher
prior to attempted use of club
only instruction from fellow student
City Park Fatality Caused by Light Pole
Glorioso v. Young Men's Christian Association of Jackson
Seth, 9, fell & crushed by pole in city park
(18.5 ', 1490 lbs)
24 yr old YMCA counsellor took 19 children to park to play baseball
after game began playing with pole near van, on flat ground, near slope
Grindstaff, Y employee, promised ice cream cone
to child who could stay on pole the longest
after 10 mins, Y idea to shake pole & move it
Adult could not move pole alone, asked help of children
leaning against van with feet against pole
forced pole to move from indentation
Children jumped from pole to high side
Seth ran down hill,
tried to leap over pole
caught foot, fell, and was crushed
Police: 2-3 feet flat ground before slope
pole would not have moved without outside force
to dislodge pole and propel it down slope
P alleged Y employee should have known
conduct created unreasonably dangerous condition
P: City negligent in placing pole,
created unreasonably dangerous condition
Trial granted directed verdict to City
jury returned verdict for YMCA and Grindstaff
Child's contributory negligence by playing on log & jumping wrong way
Whether trial court erred in failing to give jury instruction
that 9 yr old is presumed incapable of contributory negligence
Contributory Negligence on part of Minors
minor between 7 and 14 yrs presumed not to have sufficient discretion
to be guilty of contributory negligence
presumption rebuttable by D
showing exceptional capacity
New trial granted
against YMCA & Grindstaff
Invitee on municipal property
exercise ordinary & reasonable care to ensure property safe
duty to warn of known dangerous conditions
in no way caused incident
Grindstaff's act of dislodging pole
was independent, intervening cause
Rule as to Intervening Cause:
Not Proximate Cause
which merely furnishes condition
upon which injuries received
but does not put in motion
agency through which injuries inflicted
judgment for City AFFIRMED
Failure to Supervise Scout on Wilderness Hike
McGarr v. Boy Scouts of America
P, 11, injured in fall from precipice into partially frozen stream
"New Scout" no instruction or training in overnight camping
simply bring warm clothes & certain camping gear
Supervisor told P and other scout to go get firewood, no instruction
P heard water was curious, slid down slope holding onto trees
15 - 40 ft cliff not visible, tree broke fell over cliff
P: supervisor negligent failure to familiarize self with area & give proper supervision
trial court dismissed claim based on contributory negligence & assumption of risk
Standard of child of like age, intelligence & experience
capacity of particular child to appreciate risk & form reasonable judgment
Inexperienced scouts, first overnight camping trip
no special training or instruction in hiking
did not see sufficient danger to deter sliding down hill
Scout leader duty to take reasonable precautions for P's safety
in addition to general duty for supervision of child
Scout Handbook specified "rigorous" health & safety program standards
Continued vigilance is necessary... do not expose them to unnecessary risks
adequate supervision through verbal & visual communication is essential
Leader acknowledged preparation necessary before camping in mountains
did not survey area, did not have topo map
did not consult anyone about immediate area
Leader thought sketch map from ranger was sufficient
"did not intend to take any extended tours of back country"
Leader knew about precipice
"unless looking for it.... could not spot" cliff as it really existed
Reasonable jury could find Leader negligent
upon returning from hike instructed boys to gather firewood without any direction where to go, or not to go
without any warnings, without any supervision
REVERSED & REMANDED