Question of Fact Whether Negligent Supervision Was the Proximate Cause of the Injuries Plaintiff’s Son Suffered in an Attack by Another Student–the School Was Aware of Prior Assaultive Behavior by the Attacker and the School Was Aware of Recent Threats of Violence (Against Plaintiff’s Son) by the Attacker—The Court Noted that, In a Summary Judgment Motion, the Evidence Is Viewed in the Light Most Favorable to the Nonmovant
The Third Department determined questions of fact precluded summary judgment in favor of defendant high school in a negligent supervision case. Plaintiff’s son, LaValley, was assaulted by another student, Breyette, after plaintiff had alerted school officials about threats of violence made by Breyette against her son. Breyette had a history of assaultive behavior for which he was suspended in middle school. LaValley was punched 37 times in the school cafeteria in close proximity to a teacher who did not intervene and who was not aware of the conflict between the two students. The Third Department noted that, in determining a summary judgment motion, the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmovant:
“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” … . Where a fellow student intentionally injures another, the duty is breached if the school had actual or constructive notice of the conduct that caused the injury such that the acts of the fellow student could have been reasonably anticipated … . The adequacy of supervision and proximate cause are generally issues of fact for the jury … .
Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiff as the nonmovant …, we note that Breyette had a history of assaultive behavior, including a previous assault against LaValley in middle school that resulted in Breyette’s out-of-school suspension. There is also evidence that, within the month prior to the assault, Breyette specifically threatened violence against LaValley, and plaintiff testified that she immediately informed the high school principal about this threat. Plaintiff also testified that she brought up the conflict between LaValley and Breyette during a meeting with the principal and her son’s teachers. Although the principal acknowledged that plaintiff had informed him about the conflict and he testified that he spoke to Breyette about it, Breyette denied that the principal had spoken to him prior to the attack. The attack itself occurred in the school cafeteria, in close proximity to a teacher who had not been notified of the threat or the conflict between the two students. According to Breyette, he calmly approached LaValley, called his name to get his attention and proceeded to punch him in the head 37 times without any adult intervention. He did not stop until another student intervened. In light of this evidence, we agree with Supreme Court that factual issues exist with respect to the adequacy of defendants’ supervision and whether the lack of adequate supervision was a proximate cause of LaValley’s injuries … . LaValley v Northeastern Clinton Cent. Sch. Dist., 2015 NY Slip Op 06187, 3rd Dept 7-16-15