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Rush v. Corvallis School District 509J

Court of Appeals of Oregon

April 11, 2018

Marjorie RUSH, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CORVALLIS SCHOOL DISTRICT 509J, an Oregon public body, Defendant-Respondent.

          Submitted on October 27, 2016.

          Benton County Circuit Court 1310587; David B. Connell, Judge.

          Rachel F. O'Neal fled the brief for appellant.

          Luke W. Reese and Garrett Hemann Robertson PC fled the brief for respondent.

          Before Ortega, Presiding Judge, and Egan, Chief Judge, and Lagesen, Judge.

         Case Summary: Plaintiff appeals a judgment dismissing her negligence claims entered after the trial court granted summary judgment to the defendant school district. Plaintiff, a high school student, suffered injuries when she was assaulted by another student at a location across the street from the Corvallis High School campus during the lunch period. Plaintiff alleged that the district negligently failed to supervise the students involved and negligently failed to follow and enforce its discipline protocols and anti-violence policies despite knowledge of the potential for violence at the off-campus location. The trial court granted summary judgment to the district, concluding that the district had supervised the students and that the district's decision as to the manner in which it supervised students during the lunch period was entitled to discretionary immunity. Further, the court determined that there was no evidence that the district knew or should have known about the potential for violence between the students involved. On appeal, plaintiff challenges the trial court's summary judgment ruling. Held: The trial court did not err in granting summary judgment because uncontroverted evidence showed that defendant had supervised students at the off-campus location during the lunch period, and the summary judgment record did not contain legally sufficient evidence to support a fending that defendant had or should have had specific knowledge of the potential for violence between the students involved.

         [291 Or.App. 253] ORTEGA, P. J.

         Plaintiff, a high school student, suffered injuries when she was assaulted by another student, Carmack, while trying to stop a fight between Carmack and Jones across the street from Corvallis High School (CHS) during CHS's lunch period. As a result, plaintiff brought a negligence action against defendant Corvallis School District 509J. As relevant on appeal, plaintiff's negligence allegations fell into two general categories: (1) the district failed to supervise the students involved and (2) the district failed to follow and enforce its discipline protocols and anti-violence policies despite knowledge of potential violence between Carmack and Jones. The district moved for summary judgment, arguing that it provided supervision of students during CHS's lunch period, and that decisions as to the manner in which it supervised students on CHS's campus and at off-campus locations during the lunch period were entitled to discretionary immunity. Further, as to plaintiffs allegations that defendant failed to follow its policies even though it knew of the potential for violence between Carmack and Jones, the district asserted that there was no evidence that the district knew or reasonably should have known of the impending fight between Jones and Carmack. The trial court granted summary judgment to defendant and entered judgment dismissing plaintiff's claims. Plaintiff challenges that ruling on appeal, and we affirm.

         In reviewing the trial court's summary judgment ruling, we view the evidence in the record in the light most favorable to plaintiff-the nonmoving party-to determine whether there are genuine issues of material fact that preclude summary judgment and whether defendant was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. ORCP 47 C. We state the facts consistently with that standard.

         At the time of the assault, plaintiff attended CHS along with Carmack and Jones. CHS was an "open campus," which meant that students could leave campus grounds during the lunch period. One school day during lunch, plaintiff accompanied Jones to an open lot across the street from CHS's campus, located at the intersection of NW 13th Street and NW Buchanan Avenue. Students and staff at CHS were [291 Or.App. 254] aware that students frequently congregated at that location during lunch or open periods. After Jones and plaintiff arrived, Carmack attempted to fight Jones. Plaintiff and other students tried to prevent the fight. Carmack turned on plaintiff and assaulted her, causing facial fractures, a concussion, and other traumatic injuries. CHS staff were not present at the 13th Street location immediately before or during the assault.

         Plaintiff brought a negligence action against the district. The following specific allegations of negligence are at issue on appeal:

"The conduct of defendant Corvallis School District 509J was negligent in one or more of the following ways:
"(a) In failing and neglecting to supervise the plaintiff and defendant Carmack while the minors were in ...

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