In a Washington negligence case, the plaintiff must prove the defendant breached a duty of care and that the breach was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury. Generally, there is not a duty for one person to prevent someone else from causing injury to another person, but there may be a duty if there is a special relationship. School districts, due to the custodial relationship with their students, may have a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent a reasonably foreseeable harm to their students.
In a recent case, a personal representative sued a school district after a high school student was killed in an accident off campus. A physical education teacher took the class for a walk off campus. The school had policies requiring teachers to get parental or guardian permission before taking students off campus for an excursion or field trip. The teacher did not follow those policies, but the defendants argued they were not applicable to the walk off campus. The teacher claimed the principal had approved him taking the class off campus, but there was conflicting information regarding exactly what the principal knew.
The teacher did not get any additional adult supervision. He walked with the students on the sidewalk beyond the school safety zone. The speed limit was up to 40 miles per hour. Some of the students were up to 200 meters away from the teacher at times. The appeals court’s opinion stated students were “explicitly granted permission” to cross the street outside the designated crosswalks.