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Court Rules School Is Not Responsible for Student’s Suicide
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The victim's mother (the "plaintiff") sued the school, claiming that it was responsible for her son's death because of its failure to enforce its own anti-bullying policy. The trial court granted the school's motion to dismiss all claims, concluding that the plaintiff had failed to demonstrate that the school was negligent, and failed to show that she was entitled to punitive damages. The plaintiff appealed.

The appeals court agreed with the trial court's dismissal of the lawsuit. It noted that a claim of negligence requires proof of the following elements: (1) a duty of care owed by the defendant to the plaintiff; (2) conduct by the defendant falling below the standard of care amounting to a breach of that duty; (3) an injury or loss; and (4) the injury or loss was reasonably foreseeable "by a person of ordinary intelligence and prudence." The court concluded that the victim's suicide was not reasonably foreseeable and so the school was not responsible for it:

If a school is aware of a student being bullied but does nothing to prevent the bullying, it is reasonably foreseeable that the victim of the bullying might resort to self-harm, even suicide… . Thus, to allege successfully that the victim's suicide was foreseeable [the plaintiff's] complaint should have included facts alleging that the school was aware of the abuse and harassment the victim experienced. The complaint fails to make such allegations. The fact that the students responsible for bullying him had a history of this behavior does not establish the school's knowledge that they continued to be bullies or that the victim was their new victim. The plaintiff provides no facts that any teacher saw or heard the bullying, that [she or her son] told anyone at the school what was happening, or any other fact to support an inference that the school had any knowledge of the situation.
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Posted: April 18, 2018

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