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School district not immune from liability in shooting incident

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Although a principal was responsible for formulating and implementing a security plan for her school, the level of discretion the principal had was not enough to give the school district immunity from liability following an in-school shooting.

Martinsville West Middle School students C.J. and B.K. filed lawsuits against the Metropolitan School District of Martinsville after they were injured during a school shooting by a former student, Michael Phelps. Even though he was prohibited from being on school property, Phelps was able to enter the building undetected by the teachers and shoot C.J. twice in the stomach. B.K. was hurt when shell casing hit his hand.

Both students and their mothers claimed the school failed to provide protection and sued the school district.

The school district filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing, in part, it was immune from liability under the Indiana Tort Claims Act. Specifically, the principal was a public employee acting in a discretionary manner which is protected under Indiana statute from liability claims.

 The Indiana Court of Appeals noted in Peavler v. Board of Commissioners of Monroe County, 528, N.E. 2d 40, 46 (Ind. 1988), the Indiana Supreme Court revisited the discretionary function exception but “was unambiguous” that it did not intend to give immunity to all decisions that involve judgment or discernment.

Subsequently, the Court of Appeals concluded that Peavler limits the immunity granted to the discretionary function to only those decisions which exercise political power and is held accountable only to the Constitution or the political process. Therefore, the school district was not immune because the principal’s development of a safety plan was not an exercise of political power.   

The Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of summary judgment in M.S.D. of Martinsville v. Rebecca Jackson, individually and as a parent and legal guardian of C.J., a Minor, and Kelli Dearth, individually and as a parent and legal guardian of B.K., a Minor, 55A01-1304-CT-182.

“As with most discretionary decisions, Principal (Suzie) Lipps may well have balanced factors and resource considerations in developing her plan, but that does not mean that this activity rises to the level of protected policy-making by the school board,” Judge Paul Mathias wrote for the court. “Under these facts and circumstances, the School District is not entitled to immunity under the discretionary function exception of the ITCA.”









 

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  1. A traditional parade of attorneys? Really Evansville? Y'all need to get out more. When is the traditional parade of notaries? Nurses? Sanitation workers? Pole dancers? I gotta wonder, do throngs of admiring citizens gather to laud these marching servants of the constitution? "Show us your billing records!!!" Hoping some video gets posted. Ours is not a narcissistic profession by any chance, is it? Nah .....

  2. My previous comment not an aside at court. I agree with smith. Good call. Just thought posting here a bit on the if it bleeds it leads side. Most attorneys need to think of last lines of story above.

  3. Hello everyone I'm Gina and I'm here for the exact same thing you are. I have the wonderful joy of waking up every morning to my heart being pulled out and sheer terror of what DCS is going to Throw at me and my family today.Let me start from the !bebeginning.My daughter lost all rights to her 3beautiful children due to Severe mental issues she no longer lives in our state and has cut all ties.DCS led her to belive that once she done signed over her right the babies would be with their family. We have faught screamed begged and anything else we could possibly due I hired a lawyer five grand down the drain.You know all I want is my babies home.I've done everything they have even asked me to do.Now their saying I can't see my grandchildren cause I'M on a prescription for paipain.I have a very rare blood disease it causes cellulitis a form of blood poisoning to stay dormant in my tissues and nervous system it also causes a ,blood clotting disorder.even with the two blood thinners I'm on I still Continue to develop them them also.DCS knows about my illness and still they refuse to let me see my grandchildren. I Love and miss them so much Please can anyone help Us my grandchildren and I they should be worrying about what toy there going to play with but instead there worrying about if there ever coming home again.THANK YOU DCS FOR ALL YOU'VE DONE. ( And if anyone at all has any ideals or knows who can help. Please contact (765)960~5096.only serious callers

  4. He must be a Rethuglican, for if from the other side of the aisle such acts would be merely personal and thus not something that attaches to his professional life. AND ... gotta love this ... oh, and on top of talking dirty on the phone, he also, as an aside, guess we should mention, might be important, not sure, but .... "In addition to these allegations, Keaton was accused of failing to file an appeal after he collected advance payment from a client seeking to challenge a ruling that the client repay benefits because of unreported income." rimshot

  5. I am not a fan of some of the 8.4 discipline we have seen for private conduct-- but this was so egregious and abusive and had so many points of bad conduct relates to the law and the lawyer's status as a lawyer that it is clearly a proper and just disbarment. A truly despicable account of bad acts showing unfit character to practice law. I applaud the outcome.

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