School district not liable for student fight

Jessica M. Karmasek Apr. 29, 2011, 1:51pm


BOISE, Idaho (Legal Newsline) - The Idaho Supreme Court has upheld the judgment of a district court in favor of a school district, saying it wasn't liable for injuries stemming from a student fight.

The Court, in its April 20 ruling, said there was "insufficient evidence" to establish liability under state law.

On Sept. 15, 2006, sixth-grader Tristen Mareci walked into the office at Canfield Middle School and told Secretary Janice McIntosh that he bumped his head. McIntosh sent Quinton Kamara, a classmate who was with Mareci, to get a bag of ice.

Then McIntosh noticed Mareci wasn't bleeding or vomiting.

When Kamara returned with the ice, she gave it to Mareci to put on his head. Kamara left for class. Once he was gone, Mareci told her that when he and Kamara were outside that Kamara "ran and he came up at full speed and he pushed me backwards, and I hit the ground and hit my head on the -- hit my head on the ground."

After about 20 minutes of laying down with ice on his head, Mareci was sent back to class.

When school was out, he and Kamara boarded the same bus home. Kamara was sitting in front of Mareci.

Before the bus began to move, Kamara turned around to face Mareci. Fearing Kamara would try to hit him again, Mareci took his keys and hit him on the head. Kamara then swung his backpack at Mareci, hitting him in the head. At that point, Mareci began crying.

Nothing further happened between the boys, but, since then, Mareci has allegedly suffered from daily headaches.

On July 28, 2008, Mareci's parents, James and Lorie, filed a lawsuit to recover damages for both themselves and their son from the Coeur D'Alene School District, the other boy and his parents.

However, the personal claims that James and Lorie Mareci had against the school district were dismissed because they had not given timely notice of their tort claim. On the school district's motion for summary judgment, Tristen Mareci's claims against it also were dismissed.

The district court entered a final partial judgment in favor of the school district, and the Marecis appealed.

Chief Justice Daniel T. Eismann, who authored the Court's seven-page opinion, said the school district is not liable for Kamara's wrongful conduct. It would only be liable for the wrongful conduct of its employees.

In the plaintiffs' complaint, they alleged that the school district breached its duty by failing to inform them that their son was injured, therefore delaying his medical treatment.

"The only injury the school personnel knew of was Tristen's first injury when he came to the school office," the Court wrote. "There is no evidence supporting a claim that the School District's failure to provide or secure medical treatment for Tristen in any way exacerbated that injury. Plaintiffs conceded such lack of evidence during oral argument on the motion for summary judgment."

The plaintiffs also alleged that the school district breached its duty by allowing their son to be assaulted by the other boy on two occassions.

"During oral argument on the motion for summary judgment, Plaintiffs conceded that there was no factual basis supporting a claim against the School District for its failure to prevent the first incident. Plaintiffs' cause of action is based entirely upon their claim that the School District wrongly failed to prevent the second incident," the Court wrote.

For the school district to be liable for their son's injury, the plaintiffs would have to show either the school district's employees acted with "malice" or "criminal intent" or that their conduct was "reckless," "willful" and "wanton," the Court explained.

However, they do not claim that the school's employees acted with malice or criminal intent and the evidence does not show it, the Court said.

"Quinton accompanied Tristen to the school office. There is no evidence of any prior conflict between the two of them, nor is there any evidence that Quinton had previously bullied or intentionally harmed any other student," the justices wrote.

"Tristen's account of how he was injured did not indicate that he and Quinton were fighting or even quarreling, nor did it indicate that Quinton intended to injure him. In fact, in his deposition Tristen testified that he did not think Quinton intended to injure him. Nothing Tristen said indicated any animosity between the boys, nor did he express any fear of Quinton or any desire to get even with him."

The Court awarded costs and attorney fees to the school district.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at

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