North Carolina Court Clarifies Applicability of Tort Claims Act in Accident Involving School Bus

We trust school buses and other transportation systems to get our children safely from one place to another. When school administrators and drivers fail to use due care, a serious accident can result. There are special rules that apply to when a public entity can be sued in a tort action, making it critical to seek guidance from a seasoned Raleigh bus accident lawyer. In a recent appellate opinion, the court considered whether the plaintiff could bring a lawsuit for the alleged negligence of a school board employee in operating an activity bus that was transporting students to an extracurricular event. The accident happened in 2011 when the plaintiff was hit by the bus while it was on its way to a football game. The plaintiff contended that the driver of the bus was negligent at the time of the accident and that she was entitled to compensation as a result.

The plaintiff filed a claim with the North Carolina Industrial Commission pursuant to the Tort Claims Act. This statute provides a limited waiver for local government immunity by allowing lawsuits against boards of education for the negligent operation of school buses and school transportation service vehicles if the plaintiff is able to show that certain criteria are met. The Commission is the body vested with jurisdiction to hear these claims.

The Commission initially granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment on the basis that the plaintiff did not show that his claim fell within the bounds of the limited waiver statutory provision. The plaintiff appealed, and the reviewing court reversed. The defendant filed a petition for discretionary review, which the responding court granted. The defendant asserted that the statutory provision did not allow the plaintiff to bring a claim based on the limited waiver provision because the statute does not cover accidents involving school activity buses. The plaintiff argued that a school activity bus falls within the ambit of the types of buses listed in the statute.

In reaching its decision, the reviewing court conducted a thorough analysis of the legislative history and associated sources of evidence regarding whether the legislature intended to include school activity buses within the limited waiver statute. Ultimately, the court concluded that a school activity bus is separate and apart from the other categories of buses listed and that the role of an activity bus within the school system is governed differently. Based on this, the court concluded that it was proper for the lower court to grant the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

If you were involved in an accident involving a public entity, it is critical that you speak to an experienced and dedicated motor vehicle accident lawyer. At Maurer Law, our team of legal professionals has assisted many residents of North Carolina with understanding their legal rights following an accident. We provide a free consultation to help you learn more about your potential legal action and whether we might be able to help you. To schedule your appointment, call us at 1-888-258-1087 or contact us online.

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