A Florida District Court issued an opinion addressing whether a School Board is liable for injuries a child suffered while walking to her bus stop. The case arose when a car hit the child while crossing the road to reach her school bus stop. In response to the plaintiff’s lawsuit, the School Board (School) filed a motion for summary judgment asserting sovereign immunity. The trial court denied the motion, and the School appealed.
Sovereign or governmental immunity is a legal concept that protects federal and state governments from certain civil lawsuits. Under Florida law, individuals may commence a tort claim against the government if their employee’s actions caused the plaintiff’s damages. However, the statute only allows these cases in certain situations and imposes strict notice requirements and provides limitations to the damages one can recover against the government.
Typically, governmental entities may be liable if they create a “known, dangerous condition” that may not be readily apparent, and they have knowledge of the presence of individuals likely to suffer injuries. In those cases, the governmental entity has a duty to warn those who might suffer injuries or avert the danger. However, Florida courts have explained that the duty only applies in cases where the condition is “so serious and so inconspicuous” that it essentially amounts to a trap.
In this case, the court reasoned that the School did not maintain a duty to warn of the busy roadway because it did not create the condition. Further, the plaintiff was not in the school’s custody when the incident occurred; instead, she was in the process of crossing the street to reach her bus stop. The court found that the School did not have custody or control over students while they were “en route” to their bus stop. Instead, responsibility for the child lies with their parent or guardian. Because the school did not owe the child a duty, the negligence claim is moot, and the court did not need to address whehter sovereign immunity bars the action.
Florida experiences a disturbing rate of school bus accidents. Most recent statistics from the Florida Department of Vehicles indicate that the state has seen a 16% increase in school bus-related incidents throughout the state. Accident claims involving school bus companies and school districts can be challenging, and injury vicitms should contact an attorney to discuss the viability of their claims.
Have You Suffered Injuries in a Florida School Bus Crash
If you or your child has been involved in a Florida school bus accident, contact Friedman Rodman Frank & Estrada for assistance. Cases involving governmental entities can be challenging and daunting for injury vicitms. Our attorneys have extensive experience successfully resolving these cases for our clients. The firm handles Florida accident cases involving motor vehicles, premises liability, products liability, medical malpractice, and nursing home abuse and neglect. We have secured significant amounts of compensation for our clients and their loved ones. Contact our office at 877-448-8585 to schedule a free initial consultation with a Florida accident attorney on our team.