State Supreme Court Holds “School Activity Bus” Is Not Considered a “School Bus” for Purposes of Governmental Immunity

Earlier this month, an interestingly nuanced decision was released in the case of Irving v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education. In the case, a state supreme court determined that a “school activity bus” transporting students to a sporting event was not to be considered a “school bus” for the purposes of the state’s Tort Claims Act. Thus, a plaintiff who was injured in an accident involving a school activity bus will not be permitted to recover compensation for her injuries, based on the state’s sovereign immunity.

school-bus-1256391Irving v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education:  The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured when her vehicle was struck by a bus carrying students to a football game. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the driver of the bus, who was an employee of the Board of Education. In response to the lawsuit, the Board of Education asked the court to dismiss the case, based on its sovereign immunity. Sovereign immunity is an old legal doctrine that is still in effect today. Simply said, the doctrine states that governments cannot be held liable for personal injury accidents unless they consent to being named in the lawsuit.

The plaintiff asked the court to deny the Board’s request for dismissal, based on the fact that the state legislature exempted accidents involving “school buses” from the government’s sovereign immunity. The plaintiff admitted that only school buses were exempt from sovereign immunity, but she argued that the vehicle involved in the accident was, in fact, a school bus. However, the court drew a line between school buses and school activity buses, and it found that the vehicle being operated at the time of her injury was a school activity bus.

The Difference Between School Buses and School Activity Buses

The court considered several sources of information, including state statutes that define the term “school bus.” The court noted that, according to the evidence presented, the primary purpose of a school bus is to take students to and from school. However, the primary purpose of a school activity bus was to take students other places, such as sporting events and places not necessarily involved with academics but still related to the purpose of a school. Because of this distinction, the plaintiff’s suit does not fall outside the state’s sovereign immunity and will not be permitted to proceed towards trial.

Have You Been Injured in a School Bus Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been involved in a school bus accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. However, as you can see from the case discussed above, recovery is subject to the state’s sovereign immunity in many cases. Maryland has a strict set of laws governing when the State can be held liable and when it cannot. To learn more about whether you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries, contact an experienced attorney who can help you understand the law as it applies to your situation. Call 410-654-3600 today to set up a free consultation with a dedicated personal injury advocate.

More Blog Posts:

Tracy Morgan’s Tragic Accident Brings Truck Driver Fatigue to Center Stage, Maryland Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog, published January 20, 2016.

Court Upholds Verdict Against Trucking Company in Fatal Amtrak Accident, Maryland Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog, published February 3, 2016.

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