Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
When an intervening, intentional act of another is itself the foreseeable harm that shapes the duty imposed, the defendant who fails to guard against such conduct will not be relieved of liability when that act occurs.
On June 3, 1988, Bell’s sixth grade class, along with five other fifth and sixth grade classes, attended a drug awareness fair at a park near the school. Sponsored by defendant Board of Education and the police department, the fair permitted students to walk through the park on their own and participate in program activities that interested them. Seven teachers and four or five aides supervised the group. Before the outing, Bell’s teacher told his class where to meet so that they might return to school together. Bell testified that at around noon, her teacher gave her permission to leave the park, with friends, for lunch at a nearby pizzeria. At 12:30 P.M., in preparation for return to school, Bell’s teacher took a head count of his students and discovered that she was missing. He looked for her in the park, but did not inform any of the other teachers or police officers providing security at the fair that he could not locate her. Bell’s teacher and his class left the park at 1:00 P.M., without her, but stopped first at her house before returning to school. He told Bell’s mother (who usually met her daughter at school dismissal time to accompany her home) of the disappearance but he did not disclose the incident to school officials. Meanwhile, at about 12:50 P.M., Bell was in the pizzeria when another student told her that her class had left. She hurried to the park but could not find them, and she started to walk home alone. At approximately 1:30 P.M., a block from the park, Bell met John Gibson (a student at the nearby junior high school), Chivelle Stallworth and a third boy whose name she did not know. Gibson and Stallworth began accosting her on the street and threatened to hurt her if she left. They then took her to Stallworth's house where they raped and sodomized her for 2 1/2 hours. When they released her, Bell ran home and told her mother what had occurred. Her mother, who had just informed the school of the disappearance, then called the police. Gibson and Stallworth were arrested later that day. Each pleaded guilty to first degree rape. After a jury verdict in plaintiff's favor, the Appellate Division, one Justice dissenting, reversed and dismissed the complaint.
Was the rape of Bell an unforeseeable superseding event which absolved the Board of Education from liability?
A rational jury hearing the trial testimony could have determined, as the jury in this case did, that the foreseeable result of the danger created by defendant's alleged lack of supervision was injury such as occurred here. A fact finder could have reasonably concluded that the very purpose of the school supervision was to shield vulnerable schoolchildren from such acts of violence.