Yesterday, the California Supreme Court decided C.A. v William S. Hart Union School District involving the issue of vicarious liability. The Court was presented with the issue of whether or not William S. Hart Union High School District could be found vicariously liable for the alleged negligent supervision of the counselor.
The Court found that the plaintiff’s theory of vicarious liability was supported with ample legal authority. According to the Court the school district owns their students a protective duty of supervision and if that duty is breached they may be held vicariously liable for their employees’ actions. In this case, the district breached their duty negligently exposing the plaintiff to a foreseeable danger of molestation by his guidance counselor, resulting in his injuries.
What is Vicarious Liability?
Simply put, vicarious liability is legal responsibility imposed by law upon a “master” by the errors or omissions by his/her “servants.” The practical effect is to:
(1) make defendant’s pay for the risk of their enterprise and
(2) allowing an injured party a “deeper” pocket to seek reimbursement for the damages done by the enterprise thru its workers.
What Does This Mean For You?
This opinion reinforces the legal authority that school district’s and their supervisory employees must take reasonable measures to guard students against any foreseeable harassment and abuse, includes potential abuse from teachers and counselors. Hopefully it will reinforce the school district’s power of protecting student’s under their control.