Whether you may sue a school in Michigan for your child's injury on school grounds hinges on several factors. If the school is a public school, the doctrine of sovereign immunity may apply, and the analysis of whether you may sue and how you sue becomes more complicated. If your child was injured due to school negligence, you should retain an experienced Grand Rapids or Traverse City premises liability attorney. Kelly Neumann is an award-winning trial attorney who has achieved many verdicts and settlements in the millions of dollars.Bringing a Claim Based on Injuries Caused by School Negligence
If your child was injured due to school negligence, you may be able to bring a case grounded in premises liability law or general negligence. A premises liability claim arises when an injury is a result of an unsafe condition on the premises. For example, if your child broke a bone because a step leading to a classroom was broken, you would probably have a premises liability claim. A negligence claim would be brought if the conduct of the school were the cause of the injury. These distinctions are not always clear. Using the broken step example, it might be appropriate to argue that the school's failure to keep up the property—its negligence—was the cause of your child's injury.
The matter may be made more complicated depending on whether your child goes to private school or public school. A private school owner will be treated like other private commercial entities when it comes to a premises liability or personal injury lawsuit. In Michigan, a school owes an invitee a duty to protect them if it has actual notice of a hazard or would have discovered a hazard by using reasonable care. For example, if there is a spill in the school hallway that is present for 24 hours or more, there may be constructive notice of that condition. However, if the spill is differently colored, and everyone else is walking around it, it may become difficult to hold the school responsible. A landowner will not be liable for any open and obvious condition.
Public schools and their employees are usually immune from suit under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. This doctrine provides that a governmental entity may not be sued except with its express consent and waiver of the doctrine. There are a limited number of exceptions to governmental immunity, and one of these is for injuries suffered in public buildings. A governmental agency may be liable for a bodily injury arising from a dangerous or defective condition of a public building if it has actual or constructive knowledge of a defect but fails to fix it within a reasonable time after acquiring knowledge of the risk.
When an injury is a result of a school employee's negligence, rather than a dangerous condition, or if the school can persuasively argue this, the standard shifts. In Michigan, you must establish gross negligence to hold a public school's employees liable for their actions. This means that there is an actual awareness of a specific danger to a child, as well as a conscious disregard for the risk. You may only be able to hold liable the specific government employee involved in the accident that harmed your child, such as a teacher or a staff member who acted in a grossly negligent fashion. If the injury was a result of a formal or informal policy that actively created a risk for a child, you may also be able to hold the school board accountable. When there are other factors that contributed to your child's injury, however, such as another student who was behaving dangerously, the government employee may not be held liable.Retain a Child Injury Attorney in Grand Rapids or Traverse City
If you believe that your child was a victim of school negligence, we may be able to assist you. Our West Side of Michigan firm represents families in Grand Rapids, Traverse City, Detroit, Lansing, Ann Arbor, Flint, Petoskey, Warren, Holland, Muskegon, Midland, Kalamazoo, Wyoming, and Saginaw, as well as communities throughout the Upper Peninsula. Contact the Neumann Law Group at 800-525-NEUMANN or via our online form for a free consultation with an injury attorney.