State Supreme Court Affirms Dismissal of Claim Against Teacher in Wrongful Death Lawsuit

The Supreme Court of Georgia recently published an opinion affirming a Georgia court of appeals’ decision to affirm a trial court’s grant of judgment to a defendant teacher, whose alleged negligence in failing to supervise her class resulted in the death of the plaintiff’s son. The defendant had allegedly left the classroom, and the defendant’s son was killed as a result of “horseplay” that occurred in her absence. With the most recent decision of the Georgia Supreme Court, the plaintiff will not be able to collect damages from the teacher for the claim against her in her individual capacity.`

classroomThe Plaintiff’s Son Dies After Another Student Crushes Him During “Horseplay”

The plaintiff in the case is the mother of a boy who died as a result of injuries that he sustained as a student in the defendant’s American Literature class at the defendant high school. According to the appellate court’s discussion of the underlying facts of the case, the teacher left the classroom for 30 minutes or more during and after the period of time when the plaintiff’s son sustained the injuries that ultimately took his life.

When asked by school administrators about what happened after the student’s death, the defendant first lied, stating that she was in her classroom the whole time. After the death of her son, the plaintiff filed a wrongful death claim against several defendants, including the teacher both in her official capacity as a teacher and in her individual capacity.

The Trial Court Grants the Defendant Immunity

Established Georgia law states that public employees are immune from liability for discretionary duties negligently performed while in the course of their employment. Georgia law does not grant immunity to government employees for negligence in the performance of a ministerial act, which is that which requires little or no judgment or personal decision-making from the actor. Finding that the act of supervising children has been previously defined by courts as a discretionary act, the trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s claim against the teacher in her individual capacity.

The Appellate Courts Agree that the Law Is Settled

The plaintiff appealed the trial court’s ruling that the teacher could not be sued in her individual capacity, arguing that the school written policy expressly requiring teachers to stay in their classrooms made the act of supervising children a ministerial one rather than a discretionary one. The appellate courts reviewed the case law and found that it is settled that the act of supervising underage students by a teacher is a discretionary one and that teachers cannot be sued in their individual capacities for alleged negligence in carrying out these acts.

Immunity for Teachers and Other Government Employees Accused of Negligence in Florida

Title 45 Chapter 768.28, Section 9(a) of Florida Statutes Annotated establishes immunity for state and municipal employees who are negligent in performing their duties. Unlike the Georgia law, Florida does not distinguish between ministerial and discretionary duties, instead granting personal immunity to all government actors, agents, and employees for all negligent acts unless they are committed in bad faith or with malicious intent. Actions for the recovery of damages caused by the negligence of government employees in Florida must be pursued against the entity itself or its registered agent in accordance with Florida’s tort immunity waiver statute.

Do You Have a Wrongful Death or Personal Injury Claim?

If you or a loved one has been injured, or a loved one has died as a result of the negligence of another person, you may have a claim for compensation against the parties responsible for your loss. If you have questions about pursuing a South Florida wrongful death or personal injury case against whomever you believe is responsible for your injuries, talk to the South Florida personal injury attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank about what happened to see if we can help. Our dedicated and professional accident and negligence lawyers understand Florida laws and the procedures that are necessary to pursue a civil claim for damages against a negligent defendant in Florida. The lawyers at our firm accept clients throughout South Florida in all types of negligence and injury cases. Call our office at 877-448-8585 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Appellate Court Reverses Lower Court’s Denial of Plaintiff’s Request to Extend Notice Deadline, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published January 19, 2017.

Plaintiff in Defective Tire Wrongful Death Case Will Not Have Evidence Excluded for Spoliation, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published January 4, 2017.

Contact Information