Bus abruptly stops. Kid smacks into the windshield. Liability?

School districts in Texas are not liable for most of the injuries that students suffer while attending school.  We have immunity provisions in place that protect school districts from liability when kids get hurt, even when the injury is due to the negligence of a school employee, or of another student.  But there is an exception when it comes to transportation.

School districts are liable for injuries that result from the negligent use or operation of a motor vehicle by a school employee.  So T.P., a student in Arlington, probably figured that she had a pretty good case when she was thrown into the windshield of the bus hard enough to crack the windshield.  Ouch!  However, the school’s attorneys argued that the lawsuit did not properly allege that the girl was injured due to the negligent operation of the bus, but rather, due to the negligent supervision of the students. After all, she would not have been tossed into the windshield if she had not been standing in the aisle. Doesn’t that indicate that the real problem was negligent supervision?  Thus the school filed a Motion to Dismiss.

It was a good argument by the school’s lawyers.  There are numerous cases that make it clear that the district is not liable for negligent supervision—even if it happens on the bus.   Thus just because an injury occurred ON the bus does not mean that it was CAUSED BY the negligent use or operation of the bus.

The argument was a good one, but not good enough to persuade the court to toss out the case. The court held that the pleadings were sufficient to allege that the bus driver was careless in operating the bus, thus requiring an abrupt stop to prevent a collision.  That was enough to keep the case alive.

Some of you are probably wondering: but what about the fact that the girl was standing in the aisle? Doesn’t the student bear some responsibility?  The court said that it would be perfectly appropriate for the jury to consider that as a factor pointing toward “contributory negligence.” But that will come up later.  It was not reason enough to toss the case out.

Motion to Dismiss denied. Let the depositions begin!

The case of Arlington ISD v. T.P.  was decided by the Court of Appeals for the Second District of Texas, Fort Worth, on February 9, 2017.  We found it at 2017 WL 526311.


File this one under: LIABILITY

Tomorrow: Can you pray at school board meetings?