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Sunday, July 14, 2024 | Back issues
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Catholic School Not Liable for Student’s DUI Crash

(CN) - A Catholic high school is not liable for the injuries of a student who drank at an end-of-year party and crashed his car into a tree, killing his friend and becoming a quadriplegic, a Florida appeals court ruled.

A 17-year-old student at Archbishop Carroll School left the party drunk, got in his car and hit a tree in a residential area while driving 80 to 100 mph, splitting the car in half. Two hours after the accident, his blood alcohol level was above .08.

The student and his parents argued that the school knew about the party and should have stopped it from happening. School administrators had intercepted "praty" invitations and made a skit called "Busting a Party" in response, warning students that school officials might show up.

But mere knowledge about the party does not make the school liable, the Third District Court of Appeal in Miami ruled, reversing a ruling for the student and his parents.

The party was not school-sanctioned or club-sponsored, Judge Vance Salter wrote, and the school's handbook contained an all-caps disclaimer stating that the school was not responsible for any events that weren't sanctioned by the school.

Though administrators' knew about the party, the gathering was never officially endorsed, sponsored or recognized the event, the ruling states. The word "busting" and the content of the skit clearly "convey disapproval," Salter added.

"At some point, we believe that a school's obligation of reasonable supervision must come to an end and the parent or guardian's duty of supervision must resume," the ruling states. "That logical point, we think, should be when the student leaves the school's premises during non-school hours and is no longer involved in school-related activities."

The appeals court reversed and remanded.

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