Casey Hopkins, et al. v. Indianapolis Public Schools d/b/a Ralph Waldo Emerson School 58

The Indiana Tort Claims Act (ITCA) protects public schools from litigation when a public school is enforcing a policy. The Indiana Court of Appeals recently investigated the difference between a public school enforcing a policy and a school failing to enforce a policy. The distinction is vital in asserting a claim against a public school in Indiana.

In the case of Casey Hopkins, et al. v. Indianapolis Public Schools d/b/a Ralph Waldo Emerson School 58, a seven-year-old student, DeShawn Yarbrough, was mistakenly taken out of the bus line and placed with the children designated to walk home. Deshawn told the teacher he was supposed to take the bus home and showed the teacher his blue tag specifying him as a bus rider. Unfortunately, the teacher did not listen. DeShawn lived 1.2 miles away and had never walked home from school before. In the young boy’s attempt to get home, he crossed busy streets during rush hour, walked a mile in the wrong direction, and was chased by dogs before someone came to his rescue. The rescuer took DeShawn in, let the police know she had Deshawn, and reached out to Deshawn’s mother through Facebook. Deshawn’s parents sued IPS shortly after.

The trial court granted summary judgment to the school because the dismissal procedures fell under school policies, and therefore the school was granted immunity under the ITCA. However, the Indiana Court of Appeals overturned the summary judgment citing St. Joseph County Police Department v. Shumaker, 812 N.E.2d 1143 (Ind. Ct. App. 2004). In Shumaker, a principle was laid out that public schools are not immune to tort action when the school’s failure to comply with a policy is in question. In Deshawn’s case, the school was not enforcing a dismissal policy but failed to enforce the proper dismissal policy and, therefore, did not have immunity to Yarbrough’s suit.

If you or a loved one have been affected by an injury, accident, or death involving a public school, contact an experienced personal injury attorney at Hurst Limontes, LLC. We have decades of combined experience fighting for our clients in any number of personal injury claims. Call 317-636-0808 or email us for a FREE and confidential consultation.