To What Extent Do Maryland Schools Have a Duty to Protect Students?

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case discussing whether a plaintiff’s case against a public university should proceed toward trial. The case presents interesting issues that frequently arise in Maryland premises liability cases. Specifically, the duty a school owes to its students. Ultimately, the court concluded that the school owed the plaintiff a duty of care and that the plaintiff’s case should proceed toward trial or settlement negotiations.

The Facts

According to the court’s recitation of the facts giving rise to the plaintiff’s claim, a student with a documented history of mental health issues attacked the plaintiff with a knife during a chemistry lab. Evidently, the student who attacked the plaintiff had evinced paranoia-type symptoms to several university staff members and as a result was seeing a school psychologist at the time of the attack.

The plaintiff claimed that the school was liable for her injuries because the administrators failed to take action to protect her (and other students) from foreseeable threats of violence. The school argued that it did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care, and even if it did, by providing mental health services to the student the school fulfilled its duty.

The Court’s Opinion

The court began by explaining that, in general, a school has a duty to protect its students from harm. However, that duty is limited to times when the student is engaging in curricular activities. Additionally, before a school is held liable for a student’s injuries, the student must show that the school was aware of the hazard that caused their injuries and that the school took insufficient actions to remedy the harm.

Here, the court held that the school had a duty to protect the plaintiff. The court noted that the plaintiff was in a chemistry lab when she was attacked, and that this was a curricular activity. The court then went on to discuss whether the school was aware of the hazard presented by the other student and whether sufficient actions were taken. The court pointed to the several reports of student’s “erratic” behavior, finding that it demonstrated that he posed a foreseeable risk. Finally, the court explained that the school may have taken additional steps to protect the school’s students from harm such as referring the unstable student to the school’s Violence Prevention Team.

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland School Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured while on the property of a public or private school, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Maryland premises liability lawsuit. At the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, we represent accident victims and their families in all types of personal injury claims arising in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. To learn more about how we can help you pursue compensation for the injuries you have sustained, call 410-654-3600 to schedule your free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Maintenance Worker Permitted to Proceed with Claim Against Property Owner in Recent Premises Liability Case, Maryland Accident Law Blog, December 10, 2018.

Plaintiff’s Medical Malpractice Case Dismissed for Failure to Provide Sworn Expert Testimony, Maryland Accident Law Blog, November 23, 2018.

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