A lower court ruling was recently upheld by the Michigan State Court of Appeals against Marysville High School. The plaintiff, the student’s father, brought a civil case claiming negligence and intentionally inflicting emotional distress which they claim led to the suicide death of 17-year-old Steven Jahn. The court concurred with the ruling that the defendants in the case were shielded by governmentally-based immunity.
Jahn allegedly committed suicide by driving his vehicle into a concrete barrier while traveling on Interstate 69 following being suspended from school for theft of a teacher’s laptop computer. The Marysville Schools defended themselves by explaining that they cannot possibly maintain a duty for safeguarding the students after they have been transferred to the custody of their parents and are far away from the school’s premises. All parties stated that they had no knowledge that the student was suicidal.
The School’s Disciplinary Action
The school system decided not to pursue criminal theft charges against Jahn after determining he stole the computer, which contained critical and confidential student data. Apparently, Jahn had loaded an alternative software program on the laptop and changed the main password and username. The school chose to administer penalties for the theft in-house, based on guidelines that were outlined in the student handbook. Jahn was eligible to appeal the decision as part of due process. The school principal and assistant principal informed him of the punishments which included a ten-day suspension from school and no longer allowing him to participate in extracurricular school activities like sports or clubs.
Colorado Governmental Immunity Statute
The Colorado General Assembly established the sovereign immunity doctrine rendering the state and its other sub-divisions immune for civil liability in matters of personal injury. The purpose was that the state is a provider of key services and functions to the public. The potential for unlimited liability creates a burden to taxpayers that would jeopardize the services that are provided. Public employees are protected from liability, regardless of whether they are appointed or elected so that they are not discouraged from conducting their duties. Some of the entities that the statute covers include the following:
- Cities, counties, and state government
- Public school districts
- Sanitation facilities for the public
- Water facilities for the public
- Affiliated districts, agencies or political subdivisions
If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligence, carelessness, or recklessness of another party, you may be entitled to financial redress for damages incurred. Compensation may be awarded for medical bills, property damage, missed work, pain, emotional distress, disfigurement and more. The Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal serves as an advocate for Colorado victims of injury. Contact the office today at (303) 825-2223 for a complimentary consultation.