North Carolina Appellate Court Upholds Dismissal of Claim Against School Board Involving School Bus Crash Based on Government Tort Immunity

When a government entity is involved in an accident, special considerations must be made. There are different rules and procedures that apply to public entities in litigation. As dedicated North Carolina motor vehicle accident lawyers, we are ready to assist you in evaluating your claim and ensuring that you follow the appropriate procedures.

A recent appellate decision highlights the unique aspects of a government entity being involved in the litigation. The appellate court was asked to consider the liability of a local school board employee in a negligence action involving a school bus accident.  The plaintiff’s car was hit by a school bus transporting student-athletes to a football game. The driver of the bus was an employee of the county Board of Education.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury action against the defendant with the North Carolina Industrial Commission, seeking compensation for her injuries and damages. The plaintiff initiated the action in accordance with the Tort Claims Act, which includes a provision that provides a limited waiver of local governmental immunity from lawsuits in situations involving the negligent operation of school buses and school transportation vehicles in situations in which certain criteria are met. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on the basis that the Commission did not have subject matter jurisdiction to hear the claim because the claim did not fall within this waiver of immunity. The Commission granted the summary judgment motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

On review, the Court of Appeals reversed the Commission’s grant of the summary judgment motion and remanded the action. The defendant appealed. The defendant argued that the waiver of immunity section does not provide the Commission with jurisdiction to hear the claim because the section applies to accidents involving public school buses or school transport service vehicles, which do not involve school activity buses. The plaintiff argued that school activity buses fall within the provision and are encompassed within the terms public school bus or school transportation service vehicle. The reviewing court ultimately concluded that the defendant’s interpretation of the statutory waiver of immunity was correct. The appellate court determined that public school buses, school transportation service vehicles, and school activity buses were distinct categories. Since the statute did not contain any language providing a waiver of immunity for school activity buses, the Commission did not have jurisdiction to hear the claim. As a result, it was appropriate for the Commission to grant the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

If you or a loved one suffered an injury in a motor vehicle accident, it is essential that you speak to a seasoned North Carolina attorney as soon as possible. The legal process can be complex, especially when special considerations must be made or special rules must be followed. We offer a free consultation to help you learn more about our team and whether you have a viable legal action against the person who hurt you. To schedule your free consultation, call us at 1-888-258-1087 or contact us online.

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