School Cleared for Boy's Death in Punching Game


     (CN) - An Illinois school district should not face claims over the death of a teenager who had been playing a punching game in the bathroom, a state appeals court ruled.
     Donnie Hampton went to school at Kingsley Junior High School in Normal, Ill. He died after playing a game called Body Shots, which involves boys punching each other as hard as they can in the chest, ribs and abdomen.
     Donnie collapsed after he exited the bathroom, and later he died.
     Jasmine Brooks, the special administrator of the boy's estate, sued the McLean County District Unit No. 5, alleging willful and wanton misconduct.
     She claimed that school officials knew that the game had been going on for more than a year but failed to stop it, despite students suffering injuries.
     Brooks also said the district should have educated students on the game's dangers and should have monitored the bathrooms more closely.
     The McLean County Circuit Court dismissed the case, and the Springfield-based Fourth District Illinois Appellate Court affirmed.
     Since Brooks did not open a probate estate for the boy, she lacks standing to sue under the Illinois Family Expense Act and Illinois Survival Act, according to the April 18 ruling.
     That means Brooks can sue only for wrongful death, and the district owed a duty to protect Donnie from the students' conduct, the court found.
     The district was shielded from the lawsuit by the Tort Immunity Act, however, unless Brooks could prove willful and wanton misconduct on the part of the school district.
     "Nothing in the complaint suggests that McLean had any reason to know Hampton was any more likely to engage in the behavior than any other student in any of the schools in the district," Justice M. Carol Pope wrote for a three-judge panel. "Overall, Brooks alleged no facts which, if proved, would permit the inference that McLean's conduct was willful and wanton, as opposed to merely negligent."