In a recent case, a boy and his parents brought a lawsuit against school officials after he was hit by a car at his school’s driveway on his way to school. The school was located near a highway, and the school’s entrance was busy around the opening and dismissal times during school days. There was no traffic light or person directing traffic at the intersection of the driveway. The boy alleged the superintendent, principals, assistant principals, and others negligently supervised school staff and students during school hours. The defendants claimed they were shielded from liability through governmental immunity.
The state’s supreme court found certain defendants were shielded by immunity. However, the court found the assistant principals could be held liable because they may have breached their duty to assign school staff to supervise students during school hours. One of the assistant principals had been responsible for assigning school staff members to supervise student duties throughout the school. However, the school could not produce the names of people who were assigned to “bus duty” on the day of the accident or during the two weeks before the accident.
The court explained that municipal employees are immune from liability for “discretionary” acts but not “ministerial” acts (those performed in a prescribed manner without the exercise of judgment or discretion). Considering this, the court found it was not clear the assistant principals had satisfied their ministerial duties because the assistant principals’ duties included not only preparing the bus duty assignments but also distributing the assignments to staff. Here, it was not clear they created and distributed the bus duty assignments. As a result, there was a “genuine issue of material fact” as to whether they breached their duties.
Governmental Immunity and the Ministerial Exception
In general, federal, state, and local governments are immune from lawsuits. The purpose of immunity is to limit the government’s liability to lawsuits. However, there are exceptions to the general rule of governmental immunity in many different situations.
One exception that arises in immunity cases is for “ministerial” acts. A distinction in immunity cases exists between an act or omission that is discretionary and an act that is ministerial in nature. Discretionary acts are those made by public officials that are characterized by the exercise of personal judgment in deciding whether to perform an act and how to do so. Ministerial acts are those in which a person performs an act in a prescribed manner or in accordance with legal authority. If an act is found to be discretionary, normally the government is shielded from liability by immunity. Yet, if the act is ministerial, the government may be liable. However, whether an act or a failure to act is discretionary or ministerial depends on the specific facts and circumstances of the case.
Contact an Injury Attorney in the Chicago Area
If you have been hurt in a car accident, the Chicago injury attorneys at Moll Law Group are ready to help you assert your rights. At Moll Law Group, our Chicago injury attorneys represent people who have been involved in devastating accidents and families who have lost a loved one to an untimely death. Our attorneys believe that each personal injury and product liability lawsuit requires a comprehensive investigation, using a broad range of resources. Call us at 312-462-1700 or use our online form to set up a free consultation.
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