Hale et al. v. Window Rock Unified School Dist. (D1 12.28.21)

Division One believes we need to be reminded about the Arizona Supreme Court’s opinion in Gipson v. Kasey, and the removal of foreseeability from duty. Perhaps we do. In Hale v. Window Rock Unified School District, the trial court granted summary judgment for the school because the District had no notice of a potential risk their minor son would be sexually assaulted at school by an eighth-grade student. The school filed a motion for summary judgment, and the trial court granted the motion because although the school had a general duty, the school had no notice of a recognizable risk of harm to this student. The court of appeals reverses and holds the trial court did not apply the current law on foreseeability when it discussed foreseeability in terms of a duty. The trial court determined the Hales did not establish a “recognizable risk existed creating a duty on the part of the school to prevent the alleged attacks.” This was its mistake. Foreseeability remains a factor in examining breach and causation. These may have been the “object of the superior court’s analysis,” but it used the wrong duty language. The court concludes with providing a summary of some evidence including violence exited amount students at the middle school, there had been fights, security guards occasionally roamed the campus or maybe not, and plaintiff’s mother was a former employee at the school and was aware of disciplinary incidents. This is some evidence of breach and whether such evidence is enough, one assumes on proximate cause, “is not before the court.” Why not? Since none of us have the trial court record and can tell how the parties briefed the issues, how does such typical middle school evidence meet the burden of proof on summary judgment in showing a breach or proximate cause where foreseeability now finds its home?

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