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Law School Case Brief

Sain v. Cedar Rapids Cmty. Sch. Dist. - 626 N.W.2d 115 (Iowa 2001)


A special relationship is an important factor to support the imposition of a duty of care under a claim for negligence. A person in the profession of supplying information for the guidance of others acts in an advisory capacity and is manifestly aware of the use that the information will be put, and intends to supply it for that purpose. Such a person is also in a position to weigh the use for the information against the magnitude and probability of the loss that might attend the use of the information if it is incorrect. The foreseeability of harm helps support the imposition of a duty of care. The pecuniary interest which a person has in a business, profession, or employment which supplies information serves as an additional basis for imposing a duty of care. Information given gratuitously or incidental to a different service imposes no such duty.


During his junior and senior years, plaintiff Bruce E. Sain II attended high school at a school operated by defendant Cedar Rapids Community School District ("District"). He was a member of the varsity basketball team and maintained aspirations of receiving a scholarship to play basketball for a major college. Sain filed a lawsuit in Iowa state court against the District alleging separate claims of negligence and negligent misrepresentation. Specifically, he claimed a guidance counselor breached a duty to provide competent academic advice concerning the eligibility to participate in Division I sports as a freshman. The district court found no cause of action existed as a matter of law and the District's motion for summary judgment. 


Was the District entitled to summary judgment on Sain's claim of negligent misrepresentation?




The state supreme court ruled that the district court erred in granting summary judgment on Sain's claim of negligent misrepresentation involving information provided by the high school guidance counselor to Sain. The tort of negligent misrepresentation was broad enough to include a duty for a high school guidance counselor to use reasonable care in providing specific information to a student when the guidance counselor had knowledge of the specific need for the information and provided the information to the student in the course of a counselor-student relationship, and a student reasonably relied upon the information under circumstances in which the counselor knew or should have known that the student was relying upon the information. In addition, the court ruled, the district court properly granted summary judgment on the claim of negligent misrepresentation involving the School's failure to submit a particular course taken by Sain to the NCAA Initial Eligibility Clearinghouse for approval. The district court's judgment was reversed, and the matter was remanded.

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