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Appellate Court Rules In Favor Of Plaintiff In California School Negligence Case

Okabe & Haushalter Jul 14, 2022 school negligence attorney

A student at California’s Huntington Beach Union High School District has taken legal action against the district after being stabbed on school grounds by another student.

On the day of the attack, the victim had been at a track team practice. After practice ended, she left the school grounds for approximately 45 minutes but returned to get her books from a locker room before it was locked. When walking to the school’s parking lot, another student stabbed her.

The victim filed a lawsuit, claiming she had been harmed because the district was negligent. Her argument was based on these points:

  • The district owed her a duty of care to employ and train qualified security personnel
  • The district knew that an incident such as this was foreseeable
  • Failure to offer adequate security represented a breach of duty
  • The victim suffered physical and emotional harm for which she deserves to be compensated

The district filed for summary judgment. The district argued the plaintiff was no longer owed a legal duty of care when the incident occurred. Additionally, the district stated the plaintiff had not established that lack of security was a causal factor in her stabbing.

The Case Moves Forward After Initial Roadblocks

The trial court agreed with the school district. It ruled the plaintiff was not owed a duty of care by the school because when they were stabbed they were not on campus during school hours or participating in a school activity.

The plaintiff appealed this ruling. Upon reviewing the case, the California Court of Appeal for the Fourth District, Division Three, reversed the initial decision of the trial court. This will allow the plaintiff to move forward with her case.

The appellate court explained its reversal by pointing out that:

  • The plaintiff was on campus for a school-related/school-encouraged reason when the attack took place
  • The swim team was still practicing in the school, and thus, the campus was still open and operating
  • It is not yet clear that lack of security was not a causal factor in the stabbing, and a trial court should have the opportunity to review this element of the case in greater detail
  • At the time when the accident occurred, school grounds tended to be open to the public and students were often still on campus
  • In the three years before this incident occurred, approximately 30 other student safety incidents had occurred at the school

What This Case Tells Us About School Negligence Cases in General

A case like this one illustrates how it is not always easy for a victim to prove they are owed compensation when they are harmed because a school district did not adequately protect them. If the appeals court’s judgment is sound, it seems as though the trial court erred in its initial decision to rule against the plaintiff.

At Okabe & Haushalter, our Los Angeles school negligence attorneys understand that courts and juries can make mistakes when evaluating complex cases like these. To guard against this, we diligently gather evidence and present thorough arguments when representing school negligence victims, helping them show why they are eligible to recover compensation. Learn more about how we can do the same for you by contacting us online or calling us at 310-430-7799.