Bullied Student Survives Summary Judgment in Personal Injury (Negligent Supervision, Hiring, Retention) Personal Injury Action Against School

School bullying is unquestionably a serious issue. Whether it’s “traditional” physical bullying or so-called “cyberbullying”, such conduct can have negative effects on the victims for years after the fact.

Bullying also presents legal issues, namely, whether and to what extent the school will be liable when a bullied victim sustains injuries. A recent case, Amandola v. Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Ctr. (App. Div. 1st Dept. July 15, 2015), arises from such a claim.

In Amandola, plaintiff “allegedly sustained injuries in his former school when a fellow student allegedly assaulted him on multiple occasions, and, when inside a classroom, a group of students repeatedly kicked the infant plaintiff.”

Plaintiffs sued, alleging, among other things, negligent supervision of students and negligent hiring and retention. The Supreme Court denied the motion brought by the school defendants for summary judgment dismissing plaintiff’s complaint against them.

The Second Department affirms. As to plaintiff’s negligent supervision claim, the court explained:

The Supreme Court properly denied that branch of the appellants’ motion which was for summary judgment dismissing the cause of action alleging negligent supervision of students insofar as asserted against them. Schools are under a duty to adequately supervise the students in their charge and they will be held liable for foreseeable injuries proximately related to the absence of adequate supervision. Here, in support of their motion, the appellants failed to establish, prima facie, that they lacked sufficiently specific knowledge or notice of the dangerous conduct that allegedly caused the infant plaintiff’s injuries. The appellants’ moving papers failed to eliminate all triable issues of fact as to whether they had knowledge of a particular student’s dangerous propensities arising from his involvement in other altercations with the infant plaintiff. The appellants’ moving papers also failed to eliminate all triable issues of fact as to whether a teacher failed to take “energetic steps to intervene” to prevent the infant plaintiff’s injuries at the hands of a group of his classmates. (Emphasis added.)

The court also held, without analysis/explanation, that “appellants also failed to demonstrate their prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law with respect to the cause of action alleging negligent hiring and retention.”