Drunk-driving teen sues school district

by Walter Olson on July 14, 2011

Teacher gave me booze, pills and car keys, says Dylan Ferguson, and so it’s the school district’s fault that I hurt myself [Orlando Sentinel]

{ 6 comments }

1 wfjag 07.14.11 at 4:49 pm

Let’s see if I understand the student’s allegations:
1. He’s now age 19, and the accident was almost 2 years ago, so he was 17 or 18 then;
2. He was drunk, so he was both DUI and drinking under age;
3. He alleges that the former teacher gave him the booze at her house (which really sounds like contributing to the deliquency of a minor); and,
4. He alleges that she gave him the booze because she was romatically interested in his friend, but that the school should have known of her romantic interest (but, it wasn’t in him — so, the allegation is that the school should reasonably have anticipated that the teacher would get him drunk at her home and not during school hours and then allow him to drive away in a car because she had the hots for a different minor, although I understand that Florida law prohibits that due to the fact that she was the other minor’s teacher).
Does the idea of “outside scope of employment” ring any bells in Florida?

2 Sam T 07.14.11 at 5:33 pm

@wfjag What you’ve done here is point out the reasons that the plaintiff has a weak case–just like the district’s defense lawyer will do. If the facts are as you’ve quoted, it sounds like the defense has a relatively simple win. Since pre-trial discovery and trial are all about figuring out the facts, it seems this dispute is going where it needs to.

Should a student be able to sue the teacher and his/her employer when the teacher does something as inappropriate as getting a student drunk? Yes. Should the student win against both parties? It depends on the facts.

My major problem with this website and its creators is that they want to answer “no” to the first question. Please explain what recourse private parties have against each other when we give up our right to sue because we are prejudiced against plaintiffs? I imagine it involves guns and posses.

3 gitarcarver 07.14.11 at 6:03 pm

The lawsuit is not against the teacher. It is against the school district.

Why wouldn’t the answer be “no” to the first question?

Was the teacher teaching at the time? On school property? Was she having a meeting / party / get together as part of her required teacher’s duties and responsibilities?

As all of these answers are “no,” then what responsibility does the school district in this case?

If you think that the school district has some responsibility, doesn’t it follow that you believe that to limit liability, the school district or any employer should then have the right to monitor what their employees do and say on their own time? Hire “employment cops” to follow you around or spot check you to make sure that you aren’t putting the employer at risk?

I doubt if you will find anyone here that would think that a suit against the teacher would not be acceptable. Yet that is not what is happening here.

The kid is responsible for getting behind the wheel. He was convicted of reckless driving under the influence. The teacher was convicted of giving alcohol to minors.

What led to the accident was the result of the decisions of two individuals. It had nothing to do with the school board.

4 doug 07.14.11 at 6:13 pm

Sam T does not understand. why sue the school district? deep pockets from tne taxpayers. should the plaintiff get a dime. no.

5 Careless 07.15.11 at 8:07 am

That is the most badly written article I’ve ever read.

6 Wfjag 07.15.11 at 10:24 am

@Sam: Assuming that the news article states the facts in a reasonably accurate manner – admittedly, a major caveat – why should the school district be forced to incur the defense costs? In other words, what legal duty did it owe a near-adult to protect him from the foreseeable consequences of his voluntary participation in illegal acts, at the teachers’ home, not during school hours and involving no school-sponsored or sanctioned activities?

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