Who is Liable When a Child is Injured on a School Field Trip?
A second-grade class field trip to a local nature center proves dangerous for two classmates who slip on a wet floor near the terrapin display. Both children suffer broken bones and contusions and are rushed to the hospital by a teacher’s assistant, where they are met by their parents. The parents are understandably frustrated that their children were injured while in the trusted care of schoolteachers, but since the accident did not occur on school grounds, is the school still liable?
Determining liability in a premises liability action can be complicated. This is because each case is fact-dependent and mitigating factors can affect liability for the premises owner. It is also entirely possible that more than one defendant could be joined to a lawsuit if a child is injured during a school field trip. However, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to establish that the defendant’s negligence was the proximate cause of their child’s injuries, and therefore the plaintiff is entitled to damages. Whether the defendant had actual or constructive notice of a dangerous condition is key in proving a plaintiff’s case.
If two children purposely spilled soda or sticky liquids on the ground waiting for someone to trip and fall as a prank, this would be a serious factor mitigating the premises owner’s liability. The parents of injured children could argue that the school teacher or chaperone should have been watching the child pranksters, but it can be difficult to keep an eye on 20+ children during a field trip. If the parents of the injured children could prove that the premises owner knew about the spilled liquids or had constructive notice of spilled liquids, they may have an action against the premises owner, but this could be difficult considering hazard conditions were manufactured by other students.
What About Chaperones?
Guidelines vary for private and public schools, but generally speaking, chaperones must be properly vetted before volunteering on school grounds or at school field trips. This might include fingerprinting, a thorough background check, and safety protocol training. Without some form of training about what to do in the event of an emergency, it is unlikely that a school could shield a chaperone from personal liability in the event of an accident or a student’s injury. And if a chaperone acted intentionally to harm a student, they could be held liable in a personal injury action. If the school district failed to investigate a chaperone before permitting them to attend a school trip and a child was injured in that chaperone’s care, the school could be joined to a premises liability claim.
Contact our Premises Liability Attorneys at Harris, Preston & Chambers
There is nothing worse than knowing your child is in pain. You trust teachers and school administration to watch over your children during school hours, prevent bullying, and ensure their safety off-school premises as well. However, things get complicated on a field trip. It is entirely possible that if a child is injured off-school grounds, but on the watch of school affiliates, that the school and the premises owner could be liable, but each analysis is fact-dependent. If your child was injured during school hours, you need to speak to an experienced personal injury attorney. Our lawyers at Harris, Preston & Chambers have more than a half-century of combined experience handling all types of premises liability cases, and we will not rest until we obtain justice for our clients. Call today to schedule a consultation and discuss your options.