The 131st Annual Meeting (November 15-19, 2003) of APHA

The 131st Annual Meeting (November 15-19, 2003) of APHA

3083.0: Monday, November 17, 2003 - 9:30 AM

Abstract #55788

Legal liability: The high cost of school injuries

Lisa C. Barrios, DrPH1, Susan S. Gallagher, MPH2, and Sherry Everett Jones, PhD, MPH, JD1. (1) Division of Adolescent and School Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4770 Buford Hwy NE, Mailstop K-12, Atlanta, GA 30341-3717, 770-488-6172, LBarrios@CDC.GOV, (2) Education Development Center, Inc., 55 Chapel Street, Newton, MA 02458

Introduction: Approximately 10%-25% of child and adolescent injuries occur at school. No national reporting system for school-associated injuries or violence exists. This study uses a unique national data source -- jury verdict awards and legal case settlement data -- to describe school injury court cases and settlements, and their associated costs. Methods: School injury liability cases tried or settled since July 1, 1996 were purchased from Jury Verdict Research which maintains a database of plaintiff and defense verdicts and settlements. Cases of school negligence (excluding sexual offenses), negligent supervision, unsafe premises, and vehicular liability were included. Results: 505 school-related cases were retrieved. Preliminary analyses indicate that 68% of cases resulted in an award to the plaintiff. The median award was $245,000 (range: $5,000 to $15,398,762). The median age of injured plaintiffs was 13; 62% were male; and 73% were students. Most cases (84%) were the result of unintentional injuries. Playgrounds (13%), sports fields (9%), and gymnasiums (6%) were the most commonly named injury locations. Two-thirds (67%) of the playground injuries were the result of falls from equipment. The most frequent injury type was fractures (35%) followed by head or brain injuries (15%). Lack of supervision was named as a contributing factor in 79% of cases. Discussion: Cases were similar to those in previous school injury studies. This study adds information on jury awards and settlements associated with school injuries. Many of these injuries, e.g., falls from playground equipment, could have been prevented, thus saving schools considerable financial costs.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Injuries, School Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
Organization/institution whose products or services will be discussed: Data analyzed in this study were purchased from a commercial firm, Jury Verdict Research
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

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The 131st Annual Meeting (November 15-19, 2003) of APHA