Monroe v. BASIS School (CA2 2/10/14)

A case about a school’s duty of care to its students, mostly following the common law.

A girl was hit by a bus at a busy intersection on her way to school. The intersection had a crosswalk, walk signs, etc. but it didn’t have a crossing guard. So when she came of age she sued the school, alleging that it should have put a crossing guard at the intersection. The school argued that it had no duty and the trial court granted it summary judgment. The plaintiff appealed; the Court of Appeals affirms.

The court cites and follows the common law, which is basically that a school has no duty to students off the premises unless it’s a school activity, a school operation (the example being the Warrington cases concerning a school’s decision about where to put its bus stops), or a duty voluntarily undertaken (three guesses why this school might have thought twice about putting a crossing guard at a busy intersection; but lawyers make life safer, you know).

Plaintiff argued that the school had a statutory duty because the charter-school statutes require them to follow all health and safety rules and regulations.That includes, she contended, an ADOT manual about traffic safety in school areas. But the manual had not been enacted as a regulation and the statute it references does not authorize regulations about crossing guards.

For some reason the court then doubles back to the common law and considers whether a duty exists on the basis of public policy. But the legislature has not chosen to create one. Plaintiff “cites no public policy authority” in favor of a general duty of care to students away from school.

(link to opinion)