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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.
Plaintiffs, Virna and Vivia Mirand, two sisters who were students at Harry S. Truman High School in the Bronx, were injured after an altercation with other students and non-students. More specifically, the sisters alleged that they made repeated attempts to notify school personnel and security that they were being threatened by other students. Despite these warnings, the sisters charged that their pleas were ignored, and they were accosted by others, which resulted in injuries and hospitalization. was were taken to a hospital. One sister, Vivia, alleged that she experiences pain in her injured hand and has limited movement and use of it.
Plaintiffs filed an action alleging negligent supervision against Defendants City of New York and the Board of Education of the City of New York (Board). After a jury verdict in favor of the sisters, the trial court granted Defendant Board's motion to set aside the jury verdict and dismissed the complaint for negligent supervision. he Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in the First Judicial Department (New York) reversed the trial court's order of dismissal and reinstated the jury's verdict in favor of the sisters, holding that the jury could have found that the Board, having recognized the need for and put into effect a security plan, breached its duty to provide the students with adequate supervision at a time when such supervision was most critical. The Board sought further review.
Was the duty of the school to provide adequate supervision breached in the context of injuries caused by acts of fellow students?
The New York Court of Appeals held that there was sufficient evidence as a matter of law to establish liability for negligent supervision. It was not irrational for the jury to have concluded that the Board was on notice of an imminent danger to the sisters and did nothing reasonably calculated to protect them from that danger. The case did not involve the type of unforeseeable, spontaneous acts of violence for which school districts could not be held liable. A rational jury could have found that the complete absence of security or supervisory personnel at a time and place when vigilance was absolutely essential constituted the proximate cause of the students' injuries.