School districts providing in-person instruction run the risk of being sued if they haven’t met their duty to follow a “standard of care” (“Schools May Get Sued Over Covid-19. Seven Things to Know About Managing That Risk,” Education Week, Sept. 9). The trouble is that standard may be different by the time the suit gets to a jury.
Plaintiffs, however, will have a tough time proving causation. That’s especially so with Covid-19 because so much is still not known about its transmission. Recommendations keep shifting, which means that what seems in line with guidelines today can be seen as negligence tomorrow. Liability waivers may not be enforceable because K-12 attendance is compulsory, while fields trips and sports are voluntary.
The best way for districts to avoid being sued is to be in regular contact with local health officials to be sure they are up to date on the latest recommendations. But even if they are, they can only hope their general liability insurance does not exclude claims from Covid-19.
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2 Replies to “Suing schools over Covid-19 liability”
Wonder if the school systems’ attorneys are advising their clients to keep all the discussions verbal and to only write down ultimate conclusions (and to write those ultimate conclusions with an eye towards litigation)? Seems likely that there are health officials arguing to school officials that it’s dangerous to reopen while parents, business interests and local elected officials are arguing to school officials that it’s critical to reopen. If so, the messages from the health officials could be devastating evidence of negligence if the schools reopen, someone gets covid, and dies.
Labor Lawyer: School districts are damned if they do and damned if they don’t when it comes to reopening classes. Pressure from both pro and con sides is building. I wonder if general liability insurance covers Covid-19.