Torts - Duty of School to Students | Kinerk, Schmidt & Sethi, PLLC | Injury Attorney in Tucson, AZ

Monroe v Basis School, Inc., ___Ariz. Adv. Rep. ___2 CA-CV -2013-0047 (App. Div II, February 10, 2014) (J. Miller)

Plaintiff was a student at a charter school in Tucson on a busy street. While riding home from school on her bike she was hit a block away from the school in a marked cross walk with a traffic light and crossing signal sustaining a serious brain injury. Plaintiff sued claiming the defendant school had a duty to provide a crossing guard at the busy intersection. The trial court granted defendant's motion for summary judgment on the issue and the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed.

The court of appeals first looked for duty based on the relationship of the plaintiff to the defendant. It recognized that a school in Arizona has a duty to reasonably protect its students based on the school/student relationship. However, it found that duty limited by geography and time. Here the duty was limited to the school grounds during school hours. The court acknowledged that the duty could be extended if the school had voluntarily assumed the responsibility for crossing the street such as by creating the crosswalk or providing a crossing guard, but there was no evidence of that here.

Next the court looked for a statute or rule that would create such a duty. It found that while ARS sec. 15-183 requires charter schools to follow local, state and federal rules, regulations and statutes concerning safety, there was no rule, regulation or statute applicable here. The court acknowledged that Traffic Safety for School Areas Guidelines established by ADOT addressed the issue of crosswalks but found these "guidelines" to fall short of being a mandated rule, regulation or statute.

Finally the court looked for a public policy that might create a duty and found none. It recognized that in some circumstances the legislature has promulgated a public policy to protect students outside school grounds (e.g., ARS 15-341 requires schools to discipline students for disorderly conduct while coming to school or going home) the court could find no legislative inclination for a public policy to protect students traveling to and from school otherwise (ARS sec 15-342 providing when "deemed desirable" the school should provide transportation and loading and unloading areas for students notwithstanding).

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