March 25, 2014
Schools Sued For Bullying Can In Turn Sue Those Responsible
Written By: Jeffrey L. Shanaberger and Cherylee O. Melcher
A 17-year-old plaintiff recently brought a suit against Hunterdon Central and Flemington-Raritan school districts alleging claims under the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, N.J.S.A. 18:37-13 and the Law Against Discrimination. The plaintiff claims both districts’ staff failed to address his complaints of being bullied.
Hill Wallack LLP attorneys, Jeffrey L. Shanaberger and Cherlyee O. Melcher, currently represent Flemington-Raritan Regional Board of Education.
In the suit, third-party complaints were brought against 11 students. The school districts claimed that the students were responsible for their own actions upon which plaintiff's claims against the districts were premised and, in some instances, the parents were aware of their children's conduct and failed to prevent it. The school districts did not assert third-party liability under the LAD or Anti-Bullying Act, but state that the right of contribution exists under the Joint Tortfeasors Contribution Act whenever one party’s injury is caused by the tortious conduct of two or more persons.
Superior Court Judge Yolanda Ciccone said the principles of joint liability allow school districts to seek contribution from those it failed to supervise when they are both responsible for the same harm. She denied a motion to dismiss third-party complaints against the students in the suit and ruled that a school district sued under New Jersey’s strict anti-bullying law may bring contribution claims against the students accused of harassing the plaintiff. Ciccone held that a contribution claim is available to the school districts under the Joint Tortfeasors Contribution Act even though the plaintiff brings only statutory claims and no tort claims.
Hill Wallack LLP attorneys developed the theory of asserting third-party claims against the student perpetrators recognized by the Court as a case of first impression in New Jersey.
For a link to a New Jersey Law Journal article regarding this topic click here.
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