In C.H. v. Rahway Board of Education, et al., the Appellate Division held that a teacher cannot be held liable in simple negligence to a student injured by a faculty member while both were participating in a school sporting event.
On June 11, 2013 Rahway Middle School held a student-teacher fundraising basketball game. Plaintiff, C.H., a minor, was an eighth grade student and voluntarily participated in the basketball game played between students and teachers. During the game C.H. went up for a rebound and made contact with defendant Garry Martin, a teacher. The contact caused C.H. to land awkwardly and injure her knee. Plaintiff filed a complaint against the school, school board and Mr. Martin asserting claims for negligence, negligent supervision and intentional conduct.
The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendants on August 23, 2017. Plaintiff appealed from that order. In its June 19, 2019 decision, the Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the defendants.
The Appellate Division held that a teacher cannot be held liable to C.H., a student, for simple negligence in this context. The duty of care applicable to participants in informal recreational sports is only to avoid infliction of injury caused by reckless or intentional conduct. That duty is unchanged in the context of a sporting event between teachers and students. Furthermore, there was no evidence that Mr. Martin had acted intentionally or recklessly.
The Appellate Division also held that there was no showing that defendants breached the duty to supervise C.H. School officials owe a duty to supervise children in their care. Jerkins v. Anderson, 191 N.J. 285, 296 (2007). The supervisory duty extends to foreseeable dangers arising from careless or intentional acts of others. Frugis v. Bracigliano, 177 N.J. 250, 268 (2003). In this case the school had a referee officiating the game and five teachers that were not participating in the game supervising students. There was also no evidence that the game was being played in a reckless manner. Accordingly, the Appellate Division found that Plaintiff failed to establish a breach of the duty to provide supervision.
This decision helps to insulate schools from liability stemming from similar fundraising or recreational events. The facts established that the actions of the teacher, Mr. Martin, were no different than that of any other basketball player. Accordingly, the Appellate Division reasoned that there was no basis for imposing a greater duty on a teacher than that of any other participant in an informal recreational sporting event.