(CN) - Immunity shields a school district after the student whose vision-test failure it did not report lost sight in one eye, a New Jersey appeals court ruled.
Though Rachel Parsons failed a vision test in her right eye administered by nurse Judith Grasso at Mullica Township Elementary School in 2001 or 2002, her parents say the school board did not inform them until Rachel failed another test in 2004.
Rachel allegedly suffered partial sight loss because of the two-year delay to her lazy-eye diagnosis, a condition whose technical name is amblyopia.
In 2013, when Rachel was 17, her parents, Howard and Michelle Parsons, sued the Mullica Township Board of Education, Grasso and a pair of doctors.
A judge Atlantic County refused to grant Grasso and the board summary judgment, but the New Jersey Appellate Division reversed last week.
Citing the Tort Claims Act, which "specifically provides absolute immunity for 'failure to make a physical examination, or to make an adequate physical examination,'" the appeals court called it "undisputed that the health screening of Rachel for visual acuity was not made 'for the purpose of treatment.'"
"Rather, it was made 'for the purpose of determining whether [she had] a disease or physical or mental condition that would constitute a hazard to [her] health or safety,'" Justice George Leone wrote for a three-person panel.
As such the board and Grasso have immunity, according to the ruling.
Leone noted that the Parsons family made a "serious allegation" that the defendants were responsible for Rachel's vision loss.
"However, as our Supreme Court recently stated in finding immunity from liability for wrongful death, even where the facts 'involve a profound tragedy' or 'evoke sympathy," the judiciary's focus must be 'on the meaning of a statute," Leone wrote.
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