This post is about suing a Connecticut town or school.
Over the years, I have brought several cases against towns and boards of education for failing to follow safety rules. Perhaps no area of Connecticut personal injury law is as muddled and confusing as bringing a claim against a city, town, or school board. Connecticut towns and schools can be held accountable for the personal injuries they cause.
Towns and schools can be sued in Connecticut. But it’s not as easy as suing a person or corporation. Towns and school boards can assert the special defense of governmental immunity – meaning they can’t be sued.
This post explores some issues in governmental immunity. It is by no means comprehensive.
Suing A Connecticut Town or School: Discretionary Act Immunity
A town employee, while working on behalf of the public, cannot be found liable for negligent acts or omissions if those acts or omissions were the result of an exercise of the employee’s judgment and discretion. This immunity protects both the innocent employee and one who did not follow safety rules. For example a board making a decision between doing two things is using its judgment and therefore immune from suit. This allows government employees to make decisions without fear of being second guessed.
Suing A Connecticut Town or School: Ministerial Acts
Town and school employees can be sued for performing or failing to perform acts which they have no discretion over. These are known as ministerial acts. Ministerial acts are those duties which the public employee must perform in a prescribed manner without the exercise of judgment or discretion. Courts have found activities such as driving to be ministerial acts. Town employees and police officers have no choice but to follow the road safety rules to prevent car accidents.
Suing A Connecticut Town or School: Identifiable Victim
An exception to immunity is that a victim is an identifiable victim.
The identifiable victim exception to immunity has 3 elements:
1. that the plaintiff was an identifiable victim with respect to his claims of negligence against the defendant;
2. that the harm which the plaintiff claims befell him on was imminent when the employee acted or failed to act; and
3. that it was apparent to the employee that his conduct was likely to subject the plaintiff to the particular harm alleged.
The circumstances surrounding the incident must have been such that it would have been apparent to the employee that (his/her/its) failure to act would likely place the plaintiff in imminent danger. These 3 elements are interrelated. For example if a school knows a student is being bullied and takes no action to stop the bullying it may fall within the identifiable victim exception.
Suing A Connecticut Town or School: Identifiable Class of Victims
In addition to the identifiable victim exception to immunity there is the identifiable class of victims exception. The identifiable class of victim exception requires that that the plaintiff was a member of an identifiable class of victims with respect to his claims of negligence against the defendant; 2. that the harm which he claims befell him was imminent when the employee acted or failed to act; and 3. that it was apparent to the employee that the employee’s conduct was likely to subject the plaintiff to the particular harm alleged.
For example, a member of an identifiable class of victims, may be a student at a public school, during who was required to be at school and was exposed to a risk that was encountered in connection with his required presence at school or participation in a required school activity.
The Bottom Line
If you ever find yourself having a claim against a town it is important that you immediately contact a Connecticut personal injury attorney. In addition to immunity issues there are also potential notices that must be given to a town very soon after an injury or death. This area of law is full of traps for the unwary.
Your lawyer needs to make sure notice is properly given, a complaint is properly pleaded, and that discovery is conducted in a way that prevents your case from being dismissed. You can learn more about municipal liability from this OLR article on the subject.
If you have any questions please contact me for a free consultation at (860) 471-8333 or click on the button below.