PARDALIS & NOHAVICKA NEGLIGENCE LAW UPDATE:
The Case of the Classroom Assault (Classmate v. Classmate): School On the Hook Where Teacher Outside Classroom
The assault occurred in a classroom after the period bell rang, when Chris walked into the class and said to John, "You are fat." John punched Chris sending him into a cabinet shattering glass. The fight stopped when another student broke up the fight. The class teacher was in the hallway speaking to another teacher when the fight took place.
The night before, Chris called John and told him that he was going to threaten his girlfriend with certain photographs. Chris then sent a message via Facebook to John's girlfriend to inform her of the discussion but learned that John was logged onto his girlfriend's Facebook account and read the message. John responded with a message to Chris, telling him that if he ever catches him talking about him, he would physically attack him. Chris and John continued their argument by exchanging text messages, insulting and threatening each other. At one point in the conversation, Chris called John "fat" and John responded by daring Chris to say that to his face. Chris sent a message saying that John would not have the courage to lay a hand on him. The physical fight lasted 20 seconds, Chris was injured. Chris’s parents sued John, John’s parents, and the school for injuries.
The case WAS dismissed against John’s parents: Although parents can be held responsible for their child’s wrong-doing if they negligently failed to restrain the child from committing a vicious act, or if they had knowledge that the child had a propensity to engage in violent or vicious conduct, in this case there was no evidence of John’s violent nature.
The case was NOT dismissed against the school: Chris’s parents cannot recover for negligent supervision because Chris was possibly a voluntary participant in the fight, and liability for injuries resulting from a fight between two students cannot be based on negligent supervision if the plaintiff was a participant in the fight. Case goes to a jury to determine if Chris was a participant.
Here is the case: