JOSEPH STRYCHARZ, A MINOR, PPA KIERSTEN STRYCHARZ v. RICHARD CADY et al., SC 19507
Judicial District of New London
Torts; Whether Identifiable Person, Imminent Harm Exception to Governmental Immunity for Discretionary Acts as Restated in Haynes v. Middletown Applies Under Facts Here. On September 5, 2007, the fourteen year old plaintiff rode the school bus to Bacon Academy, Colchester’s public high school, and was dropped off at the bus port in front of the school. Instead of entering the building, the plaintiff left the school grounds in violation of school policy, and he was hit by a car at the intersection of the school’s entrance and Norwich Avenue and suffered serious injuries. The plaintiff brought this action against the board of education and school officials alleging negligent supervision. He claimed that the defendants knew of the danger created by heavy traffic at the intersection and that they were negligent in failing to warn students of the danger, in failing to provide a crossing guard to supervise students using the crosswalk, and in failing to adequately supervise students upon their arrival to ensure that they went directly into the school. The trial court rendered summary judgment for the defendants, finding that the supervision of students involves the exercise of discretion and that, under General Statutes § 52-557n (a) (2) (B), the school officials were immune from liability arising out of their discretionary acts. The court also ruled that the “identifiable person, imminent harm” exception to governmental immunity for discretionary acts did not apply here. That exception allows for liability when the circumstances make it apparent to a public officer that a failure to act would be likely to subject an identifiable person to imminent harm. The court found that the plaintiff was not an identifiable victim because he had voluntarily left the school grounds and was in a place where he was not required to be—and where those charged with protecting him would not expect him to be—when he was injured. The court further found that the harm was not imminent because the danger was not limited to a discrete time during which the harm could have occurred and because the condition causing the injury—the dangerous intersection—could not be considered temporary. After the trial court rendered judgment, the Supreme Court decided Haynes v. Middletown, 314 Conn. 303 (2014), in which it overruled precedent establishing that harm is imminent when the condition causing the risk is only temporary and the risk of harm is significant and foreseeable and held that the proper standard for determining whether harm is imminent is whether it was so apparent to the municipal defendant that the dangerous condition was so likely to cause harm that the defendant had a clear and unequivocal duty to act immediately to prevent the harm. The plaintiff appeals, claiming this case should be remanded to the trial court so that a jury can determine whether the identifiable person, imminent harm exception to governmental immunity as restated in Haynes applies here. The plaintiff also claims that the trial court wrongly determined that he lost his status as an identifiable victim when he left the school grounds and wrongly determined that, as a matter of law, the defendant school principal and assistant principals properly and adequately fulfilled their ministerial duty of ensuring that students were supervised at the bus port by creating a duty roster assigning school staff to that function.