Facts on School Negligence Law in New York
A school has a duty to exercise the same degree of care towards its students as would a reasonably prudent parent. Rodriguez v. Riverhead Cent. School Dist., 85 A.D.3d 1147, 926 N.Y.S.2d 149 (2nd Dept., 2011) The duty owed derives from the simple fact that a school, in assuming physical custody and control over its students, effectively takes the place of parents and guardians. Nash v. Port Washington Union Free School Dist., 83 A.D.3d 136, 922 N.Y.S.2d 408 (2nd Dept., 2011)
Schools are under a duty to adequately supervise the students in their charge and they will be held liable for foreseeable injuries proximately related to the absence of adequate supervision. Mirand v. City of New York, 84 N.Y.2d 44, l14 N.Y.S.2d 372 (1994)
Generally, the adequacy of a school's supervision of its students and whether inadequate supervision was the proximate cause of a student's injury are questions of fact. Braunstein v. Half Hollow Hills Cent. Sch. Dist., 104 A.D.3d 893, 962 N.Y.S.2d 340 (2ndDept., 2013)
In determining whether the duty to provide adequate supervision has been breached in the context of injuries caused by the acts of fellow students, it must be established that school authorities had sufficient specific knowledge or notice of the dangerous conduct which caused injury; that is, that the third-party acts could reasonably have been anticipated. Braunstein v. Half Hollow Hills Cent. Sch. Dist., supra.
The adequacy of a school's supervision of its students is generally a question left to the trier of fact to resolve, as is the question of whether inadequate supervision was the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injury. Braunstein v. Half Hollow Hills Cent. Sch. Dist., supra.
In Talyanna S. v. Mount Vernon City School Dist., 97 A.D.3d 561, 948 N.Y.S.2d 103 (2nd Dept., 2012), infant plaintiff was in a physical education class participating in a fitness station exercises on the day of the injury. The Talyanna Court wrote:
"Here, the Supreme Court properly determined, the defendant failed to submit evidence sufficient to establish, prima facie, that it properly supervised the infant plaintiff or that its alleged negligent supervision was not a proximate cause of her injuries….Further, the physical education teacher only became aware of the infant plaintiff's injury upon being notified by one of her fellow students, thus raising an inference that there was no heightened supervision of balance board activity. Accordingly, the Supreme Court properly denied the defendant's motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint."
See further: Choudhury v. City of New York, 106 A.D.3d 523, 966 N.Y.S.2d 6 (1stDept., 2013) ("In addition, issues of fact exist as to the adequacy of the supervision provided by the school and whether any lack of supervision proximately caused the infant plaintiff's injury."); Weiner v. Jericho Union Free School Dist., 89 A.D.3d 728, 932 N.Y.S.2d 138 (2ndDept., 2011) (infant plaintiff sustained injuries while participating in a lacrosse clinic in her high school's gymnasium; "Here, the School defendants failed to establish, as a matter of law, that the infant plaintiff was adequately supervised at the time of the accident or that the incident occurred in such a short span of time that it could not have been prevented by the most intense supervision."); Rodriguez v. Riverhead Cent. School Dist., supra (4th grade student injured in school's cafeteria during regular school hours while rehearsing a break dancing routing for an upcoming school concert; "Here, the defendant failed to submit evidence sufficient to establish, prima facie, that it properly supervised the infant plaintiff or that its alleged negligent supervision was not a proximate cause of his injuries.") and Hernandez v. Middle Country Cent. School Dist., 83 A.D.3d 781, 920 N.Y.S.2d 671 (2nd Dept., 2011) ("Here, the defendant failed to submit evidence sufficient to establish, prima facie, that it properly supervised the infant plaintiff or that its alleged negligent supervision of the infant plaintiff was not a proximate cause of his injuries.")
It is well-settled where facts reveal the teacher and/or instructor responsible for supervision over the infant students did not witness the activities or actions that resulted in the injuries to the infant or did not observe the accident itself, a municipality's motion for dismissal will be denied. See, Bloomfield v. Jericho Union Free School Dist., 80 A.D.3d 637, 915 N.Y.S.2d 294 (2nd Dept., 2011) (infant plaintiff was a high school student injured during gym class. The infant plaintiff ascended one of the mats from the side facing the football field. She walked towards the opposite side of the mat, and as she neared the edge of the mat, her foot became caught in a hole or tear in the mat. As the infant plaintiff attempted to untangle her foot, she fell to the ground. "The defendant failed to establish, prima facie, that it adequately supervised the infant plaintiff or that its alleged negligent supervision was not a proximate cause of the accident."); Douglas v. John Hus Moravian Church of Brooklyn, Inc., 8 A.D.3d 327, 778 N.Y.S.2d 77 (2nd Dept., 2004) ("The infant plaintiff, however, testified that he and his friends had been engaged in their game of tag for approximately one half hour before the accident. Moreover, while two teachers and a few teenage counselors were in the auditorium at the time of the accident, they allegedly were engaged in other activities and not supervising the children. The infant plaintiff therefore purportedly was participating in a prohibited activity for an extended period of time and more intense supervision may have prevented the accident.") and Armellino v. Thomase, 72 A.D.3d 849, 899 N.Y.S.2d 339 (2nd Dept., 2010) ("Here, the deposition testimony of the infant plaintiff reveals that at recess, while in summer school, the boys in the third grade class were permitted to separate from their other classmates and were not provided with any recreational diversions. The infant plaintiff testified that he and his classmates began throwing pieces of asphalt from the track at each other, and although this activity was prohibited by school regulations, the teacher or teachers assigned to supervise recess failed to notice or halt the activity.")
Consider further, Clark v. Susquehanna Valley Central School District, 19 A.D.3d 926, 797 N.Y.S.2d 608 (3rd Dept., 2005) (affirming trial court's denial of summary judgment; "Since defendant now does not deny that a collision occurred, the first instructor's admission that she did not observe it [the collision /accident] also raises questions of fact material to whether defendant's instructors were properly observing the [activity], took reasonable steps to prevent the collisions and could have prevented the collision that occurred. These questions preclude a finding, as a matter of law, that defendant's supervision was adequate and not a proximate cause of [infant plaintiff's] injury."); Vonungern v. Morris Central School, 240 A.D.2d 926, 658 N.Y.S.2d 760 (3rd Dept., 1997) (affirming trial court's denial of summary judgment; "Here, although defendant maintains that the playground was adequately monitored by the two first grade teacher [infant plaintiff 6-years-old] on duty and that the accident was not foreseeable, we nevertheless find that the record contains questions of fact precluding the grant of summary judgment on the supervision issue. It appears that neither teacher witnessed the plaintiff's fall. Although there is some proof indicating that one of the teachers was occasionally monitoring the playground area, plaintiff's teacher…stated that both she and the other teacher were planting a garden with other students at the time of the accident and she only turned around from that activity upon hearing the 'uproar' after plaintiff's fall."); Shoemaker v. Whitney Point Central School District, 299 A.D.2d 719, 750 N.Y.S.2d 355 (3rdDept., 2002) (affirmed trial court's denial of summary judgment; "…the fact that no school personnel were present on the playground at the time of the incident, we conclude that there is an unresolved factual issue as to whether, had school personnel been in a position to intercede on [infant plaintiff's] behalf, such intervention may have prevented his injury.") and James v. Gloversville Enlarged School District, 155 A.D.2d 811, 548 N.Y.S.2d 87 (3rd Dept., 1989) (affirming trial court's denial of summary judgment; "…whether the assigned lunch room aides violated the rules and procedures for supervision by allegedly sitting on a bench talking to each other with their backs to the children [and to the scene of the accident] is also a triable issue of fact" as to whether defendants' exercised adequate supervision over the children in their charge.)