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Texas Personal Injury News

Friday, July 28, 2017

“Sovereign Immunity” Makes Texas Schools Virtually Bulletproof

Q: Is a Texas public school liable for personal injuries to students?

When you put your precious cargo on the school bus each day, you probably rest assured that the driver --and then later the teachers and staff --will keep your child safe from harm until they're returned to your loving care.

You might assume that if your child suffered a personal injury due to the negligence of the school personnel, that you would be entitled to compensation for any damages and injuries from the school and its district through a personal injury lawsuit.

You might also figure that the doctrine of premises liability would protect your child if they were injured due to dangerous conditions or lack of proper maintenance on school property, just like it would if they or you were harmed on virtually anyone else’s premises.

But if you are in Texas, you're living under a false sense of security.

The doctrine of sovereign immunity protects Texas public schools from lawsuits. "The only way a school and its district (including charter schools) can be successfully sued is if the injury occurred 'out of the operation or use of a motor vehicle'". And even then, rulings in several lawsuits demonstrate the courts' tendency to practically bend over backwards in favor of the school district when interpreting what that phrase really means.

This immunity prohibits victims from recovering the type of compensatory damages typically awarded in personal injury lawsuits, including medical expenses, anticipated future medical expenses, lost income, mental anguish, and more.

In addition, this kind of blanket immunity could arguably increase incidence of unauthorized force with children, particularly special needs children who may not be able to verbalize what happened to them.

Such was the case for one frustrated special-needs parent whose five-year-old son suffered a broken jaw and had to have two teeth removed after reportedly "being carried through a hallway from the cafeteria to the principal’s office, while being held upside down by three adults, all employees of the school". The school district has reportedly fought all of the father’s efforts to find out exactly what happened, including allegedly “accidentally” recording over video footage of the incident.

For members of a protected class, such as people with a disability, a federal lawsuit may be a way around the sovereign immunity obstacle. Clearly, it would take a skilled personal injury law firm to potentially overcome the obstacles that sovereign immunity places on the ability of injury victims to sue the school and school district.

If you or a loved one has been injured in any kind of accident as a result of the negligence of another person or entity, the attorneys at Chandler, Mathis, and Zivley, PC can help you obtain the compensation you are entitled to. Call us for a free consultation in Houston at 877-739-7744 or in Lufkin at 800-657-2230. We have been serving Texans and those injured while visiting Texas for over 40 years.


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