(CN) – A New York school district must indemnify a teacher for a lawsuit brought against him by a colleague who grappled with him during an exam-grading session, a New York appeals court ruled.
James Cotter was supervising teachers who were grading exams in the school library. He directed teacher Philip McCarthy to resume his work, and McCarthy threw water at him.
This touched off a fight that ended with Cotter putting McCarthy in a headlock.
McCarthy filed an assault lawsuit against Cotter. McCarthy claimed that Cotter’s attack was unprovoked, and sprang from personal animosity.
McCarthy’s employer, the Board of Education of the Garden City Union Free School District, refused to defend McCarthy in court, claiming that the incident did not rise from his official duties.
The trial court ruled in favor of the school district, but the Brooklyn-based appeals court reversed.
“The altercation took place on school grounds, while petitioner and McCarthy were grading Regents examinations and thus was not wholly personal. It was unreasonable to deny the request to provide a defense and indemnification under these circumstances,” the judges wrote.