‘Off-hours’ attack lets school off the liability hook

Sakkas Cahn & Weiss

The weekends have their perks. Kids and adults might get to sleep in a little longer. They get a break from the responsibilities of school and work and more leisure time to spend with friends and family.

An out-of-state premises liability case, however, brings into question the weekend responsibilities of one kind of worker in particular. Does a school principal owe a standard of security on his or her school premises even though the school week is over?

This question, believe it or not, has gone through various courts based on an accident that happened in 2009. According to a plaintiff’s case against a school, she was injured in a dog attack that could have been prevented with proper safety measures in place.

The dog attack victim reportedly walked through outdoor school grounds on a Saturday when her walk was dangerously interrupted by a dog. As a result of the animal attack, the victim suffered cuts and a knee injury that required surgery. She filed negligence claims against the dog’s owner, the owner of the property where the dog belonged, the school district and its principal.

Cases involving dog attacks are not uncommon, including in New York. This specific premises liability case stands out because of the school aspect. It went before a state’s supreme court because of disagreements regarding whether a school and its principal are responsible for injuries that happen on school grounds during the weekend, when no school events are going on.

In the end, the dog attack victim’s claim against the school was rejected. The court ruled that the accident happened during “off hours,” and the victim had no reason to be at the location anyway. Though the school and principal won’t be held liable, other parties still could.

Owning a pet isn’t just a personal responsibility. Pet ownership comes with a level of responsibility to one’s community. Failing to control one’s pet can lead to injury and, in severe cases, death. A premises liability attorney can help victims understand their rights following a dog attack.

Source: Source: “School Not Liable for Dog Attack On Its Grounds During Weekend,” Michael Booth, March 26, 2014

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