Connecticut Supreme Court Addresses the Identifiable Person-Imminent Harm Exception to Governmental Immunity
In Haynes v. City of Middletown, the plaintiff, acting on behalf of her plaintiff son, sought to recover damages for negligence from the City of Middletown after her son was pushed into a broken locker by a fellow high school student. He sustained personal injuries. In response to the plaintiff’s complaint, the defendant’s city invoked a defense of governmental immunity. In their response, the plaintiffs failed to plead any exceptions to the defendant’s claim of immunity.
A jury found for the victim, however the trial court granted the defendant’s motion to set aside the verdict on the ground of governmental immunity. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision to set aside the verdict, holding that the plaintiffs never made the identifiable victim-imminent harm argument to the defendant’s claim of municipal immunity.
The Identifiable Victim-Imminent Harm Exception
The identifiable victim-imminent harm exception is one of three exceptions to discretionary act immunity that Connecticut courts have carved out. Where defendants’ acts are discretionary, they may invoke governmental immunity, barring a plaintiff’s claim against the governmental entity. However, the identifiable victim-imminent harm exception applies when the circumstances make it apparent to the public officer charged with the exercise of discretion that his or her failure to act would be likely to subject an identifiable person to imminent harm.
In the instant case, the Supreme Court reversed the appellate court’s decision and remanded the case to the appellate court for consideration of the sole issue of the plaintiff’s failure to plead the identifiable victim-imminent harm exception. The Supreme Court found that, because the Appellate Court didn’t hear full arguments on that specific issue, it was not in a position to decide the case on that issue. Thus, the Supreme Court remanded the case on that one, sole ground.
Decisions like this serve as reminders that it is imperative to consult with attorneys who are well-versed in education law and able to effectively litigate this type of claim. The identifiable victim-imminent harm exception is invoked in bullying and cyberbullying cases, when victims of bullying seek action against the school district.
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