Football Player Scuffle May Leave School Liable
(CN) - A Mississippi school district may be liable for a high school football player's alleged attack on his teammate that left the teen with brain injuries, an appeals court ruled.
Jason Swindle testified that during football practice on May 4, 2007, teammate Eathan Scarbrough attacked him.
Though he said these skirmishes usually blow over quickly in football, Scarbrough allegedly attacked Swindle again one day later in front of the football locker room. Swindle said this time Scarbrough beat him so badly that he suffered two seizures and was left with brain damage and bodily injury.
His father, Jimmy Swindle, sued the Neshoba County School District, alleging that it did not properly supervise the students, train its employees or respond to the emergency.
Scarbrough and the boy's parents are also named as defendants.
A county judge granted the district summary judgment, finding that it has discretionary-function immunity under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act.
The Mississippi Court of Appeals reversed Tuesday and remanded the case for trial.
"We find that the school district possessed a ministerial duty to maintain discipline and to supervise the students on school property during a school-sponsored activity, as required by the school district's handbook; thus, a genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether the school district breached its duty to exercise ordinary care in supervising students," Judge Virginia Carlton wrote for a three-person panel.
The school district failed to show that Scarbrough's alleged second attack in the locker room was not foreseeable, according to the ruling.
"At the time of this prior altercation on May 4, when the coaches intervened, they failed to determine the cause of this prior altercation or achieve resolution of any remaining animosity, leaving foreseeability of a future altercation to be a disputed factual issue," Carlton wrote.
Swindle claims that Scarbrough never gave a reason for the first altercation, and that he accused Swindle of talking negatively about him the second time.
Coach John Mullins testified that when he found Swindle lying on the ground after the second fight, Swindle lunged forward, punching him in the nose while yelling at Scarbrough. Several coaches and players allegedly had to restrain Swindle.
Swindle said he suffered the first seizure as soon as Scarbrough knocked him to the ground and the second one after he was brought to another coach's office and left alone. Coach Mullins called an ambulance for the boy when he saw him convulsing.