Court of Appeal upholds Hussack decision against Chilliwack school board
The BC Court of Appeal released its decision last week in the Hussack case (previously discussed here), largely dismissing the claims in appeal made by School District #33. Here is the coverage in the Vancouver Sun and here (BC Injury Law) and here (Injury Lawyers Blog) are commentaries on the outcome.
Hussack deals with a high school student, Devon, who was whacked in the face with a stick while playing a game of field hockey at school. The boy subsequently developed considerable challenges that leave Devon unable to complete many tasks on his own. The thrust of the appeal by SD #33 involved questioning whether the teacher’s failure to gradually prepare Devon for the sport exposed him to harm or, in other words, whether the absence of the preparation made the type of harm Devon eventually suffered reasonably foreseeable, such that had the teacher been exercising the appropriate care over him Devon never would have been encouraged to play. Here is what the Court of Appeal had to say to that:
Here, not only was it reasonably foreseeable that a student might be struck on the head or face with a field hockey stick, Mr. MacPhee did foresee that risk, as evidenced by his “no high sticking” rule. It was also reasonably foreseeable that a student would sustain an injury to his or her head if this occurred. The trial judge, having found the somatoform disorder was consequential to the post-concussion syndrome, properly concluded based on the evidence and authorities that the respondent had established the appellant’s negligence was the proximate cause of Devon’s injury.
The only place in the appeal that SD #33 got some relief was in the amount of damages awarded to Devon, which was reduced slightly. Otherwise, much of the decision affirms the views of the trial judge.
This case follows a string of recent decisions discussing teachers’ torts – that is, how a lapse by a teacher, particularly in gym class, can lead to a serious injury to a student and a major liability for a school board. The idea is that while no nobody is perfect, and hindsight is always 20/20, teachers should be expected to take reasonable steps to avoid certain bad things from happening to their students. And if those things happen, the school board should have to pay for it.