School Held Immune for Not Dropping Off First Grade Student at Her Designated Bus Stop

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School Held Immune for Not Dropping Off First Grade Student at Her Designated Bus Stop: Surgens v. City of Attleboro, 27 Mass.L.Rptr. 7, 2010 WL 1266724, (Mass. Super. Ct., March 31, 2010).

In Surgens v. City of Attleboro, et al., a first grade student and her mother brought suit against the City and the local bus company, which contracted with the City to provide bus transportation for the City’s public school students, after the student suffered life threatening injuries from being struck by a motor vehicle while she was attempting to cross the street after being dropped off by the bus at a location that was not her designated bus stop. Although the school had no policy requiring any students, other than kindergartners, to be met at their bus stop by a parent or guardian, the plaintiff would not get off her bus unless her mother or sister was present to meet her. On the day of her accident, her older sister was late to meet the bus and instead decided to run down and across the street to flag down the bus. When the bus driver recognized the plaintiff’s sister, she dropped off the plaintiff at the different location into the care and custody of her sister. Several minutes later after walking toward their home, despite warnings from her older sister to hold her hand, the plaintiff attempted to run across the street to their home and was struck by an on-coming vehicle.

Despite these circumstances, the Superior Court allowed the City’s Motion for Summary Judgment. The Surgens Court found that the immunity provided in § 10(j) of the MTCA protected the City from liability for the plaintiff’s negligence-based claims. Section 10(j), retains sovereign immunity for “any claim based on an act or failure to act to prevent or diminish the harmful consequences of a condition or situation, including the violent or tortious conduct of a third person, which is not originally caused by the public employer …” Mass. Gen. L.ch. 258 § 10(j). Plaintiff argued that the City “originally caused” the “situation or condition” leading to her injuries because the school principal allegedly directed the bus company to drop the child off at the different location after nobody was present at her designated bus stop to pick her up. The Court, however, declined to confine its analysis to the limited facts plaintiff suggested and instead examined all of the circumstances which preceded the accident. Accordingly, the Court held that the failure of someone to pick the plaintiff up at her designated bus stop was the “situation or condition” that originally caused plaintiff’s injuries. In addressing the principal’s alleged decision to have the plaintiff dropped off at a different location because nobody was present to meet her at her designated bus stop, the Surgens Court explained that the City was still afforded immunity under Section 10(j) because the principal’s response in such an emergency situation was designed to cure and address the situation created by the plaintiffs’ family in failing to pick her up at her designated bus stop.