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Complaints Alleging an Exception to Statutory Immunity Need Not Be Perfect, Just Good Enough

In the case of Lewis v. Ayersville Local School Dist., 2023-Ohio-3685, an appellate court, in a case stemming from a student sustaining an injury after he was hit in the head with a shotput during track and field practice, affirmed a lower court’s order granting of a motion dismiss against a school district as the complaint failed to allege a physical defect to fall under the exception to immunity under R.C. 2744.02(B)(4), but reversed the trial court’s order granting a motion to dismiss claims against a coach where the complaint sufficiently alleged enough facts to establish that immunity may not be available under R.C. 2744.03.

In this case, the student was warming up prior to a track meet at his high school, when he was hit in the head after a fellow student threw a shotput as the injured student was retrieving his own shot.  The coach was not present during the warmup but had advised students to form a line and practice for the shotput competition in a designated area. The student filed claims against the school and the coach individually.  The school moved to dismiss the claims against the school because there was no physical defect alleged in the complaint that would have established an exception to the general rule of immunity. The student argued that the lack of safety rules, protocol, or precautions was sufficient to overcome an immunity defense under the Supreme Court’s ruling in Doe v. Greenville City School, 2022-Ohio-4618, which recently extended the physical defect exception to include the absence of a device or the lack of a piece of safety equipment. The court disagreed, finding that the allegation that there was a lack of safety precautions and measures does not equate to an allegation that a physical defect was present on the school premises.

As to the claims against the coach, however, the Court reversed the trial court’s order granting summary judgment, noting that allegations in the complaint that the coach failed to supervise practice and delegated the practice to unqualified upperclassmen, was sufficient to place the coach on notice that an exception to statutory immunity may apply and dismissal under Civ. R. 12(B)(6) was inappropriate.

To read this case, click here.

Authors: Matthew John Markling and the McGown & Markling Team.

Note: This blog entry does not constitute – nor does it contain – legal advice. Legal jurisprudence is like the always-changing Midwestern weather. As a result, this single blog entry cannot substitute for consultation with a McGown & Markling attorney. If legal advice is needed with respect to a specific factual situation, please feel free to contact a McGown & Markling attorney.

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