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Tort Law Supreme Court Opinion

by Zigadto, Janet


SC20243 - Graham v. Friedlander (Negligent hiring; "The plaintiffs, the parents of four school-age children, individually and on behalf of their children, brought this action against the Board of Education of the City of Norwalk (board) and three of its members, in their official capacities (board defendants), the city of Norwalk (city), and Spectrum Kids, LLC, and its owner . . . On appeal, we are asked to determine whether the claims alleged in the plaintiffs' complaint seek relief for a failure to provide special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (act), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq., thus triggering an administrative exhaustion requirement contained in that act and within General Statutes § 10-76h, or whether the plaintiffs' action seeks relief for something other than the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE), thereby relieving the plaintiffs of the exhaustion requirement. To decide this issue at this stage in the litigation—on review of the trial court's decision to grant the board defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on the basis of a failure to exhaust administrative remedies—we must confine our inquiry to the allegations in the plaintiffs' complaint. On the basis of those allegations, we conclude that the plaintiffs seek relief for something other than the denial of a FAPE and were, therefore, not obligated to exhaust their administrative remedies. Accordingly, we agree with the plaintiffs that the trial court improperly dismissed their action on the ground that the plaintiffs had not exhausted their administrative remedies. As an alternative ground for upholding the granting of the motion to dismiss, the defendants ask us to determine that the board defendants acted as agents of the state in providing special education services, therefore entitling them to sovereign immunity. We agree with the trial court that the board defendants were acting under the control of, and as an agent of, the municipality rather than the state, and were not entitled to sovereign immunity. Accordingly, we uphold the trial court's denial of the board defendants' motion to dismiss on the sovereign immunity ground. . .

The judgment is reversed only as to the granting of the board defendants' motion to dismiss on the ground that the plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies and the case is remanded with direction to deny the board defendants' motion to dismiss as to the exhaustion claim and for further proceedings according to law; the judgment is affirmed in all other respects.")