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Government Liability

In Disabled Student v. South Bay School District (Santa Clara Sup Ct.), Michael Kelly and Spencer Pahlke resolved a negligent supervision claim on behalf of a wheelchair-bound high school senior. Notwithstanding his disability, the plaintiff sought to be involved as fully as possible in high school activities. While participating in cross-country practice in his wheelchair, the plaintiff became separated from the team as they ran through city streets. Passing through an intersection roughly one mile from campus, he was struck by a motorist who did not see him. In discovery, Mike and Spencer established the cross-country coach had misled his supervisors about the extent of the plaintiff’s participation, and more importantly, they showed that neither the district nor the high school had done anything to evaluate how to safely accommodate the plaintiff’s disability while incorporating his participation in school activities. The school district moved for summary judgment based upon primary assumption of risk and a waiver signed by the student’s parents. In opposition, Mike and Spencer retained experts in the fields of school supervision and disability rights, and successfully demonstrated that a triable issue of fact existed regarding whether or not the school was grossly negligent in its management of the plaintiff’s disabilities. Following denial of the summary judgment motion, the case settled at mediation for $2,975,000.