Student Slips in Vomit, Suffers Brain Damage, Sues School for $1.3M

A Salem, Oregon teen is suing his former school district after he suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of slipping in another student’s vomit on the basketball court. The lawsuit alleges that after a student vomited on the basketball court, the area was either not properly cleaned or not properly dried, and 15 year old Robert Amarillas, while playing basketball during an open gym session, slipped and fell on the vomit, or liquid left behind after cleaning it up.

The school district issued a statement in response to the previously filed lawsuit by Mr. Amarillas, which appears to have been voluntarily dismissed and just recently refilled. In their response, the district asserts that Mr. Amarillas was to blame for his own injuries, or perhaps someone else’s misconduct was to blame. This case is not a typical negligence case as it involves not only premises liability, but school premises liability.

Premises Liability

When an injury occurs on another person or entity’s property, there may be a personal injury claim available to the injured person if the property owner was negligent in not correcting or warning of a dangerous condition. Sometimes, even if there are warnings, a property owner can still be found liable if the warnings were inadequate. Laws vary from state to state, so it is best to always confirm your state’s law with a local attorney.

In this case, even though a coach attempted to clean up the vomit, the school can still be found liable as allowing students to continue playing basketball on a wet court is dangerous. Additionally, as this type of injury, a slip and fall on a wet gym floor, is highly foreseeable, it is likely that the coach failed in his duty to protect the children at the open gym session from an easily avoidable danger.

School Premises Liability

Typically, premises liability cases require the owner of property to exercise a reasonable amount of care. However, when it comes to premises liability on school grounds, this requirement is heightened as schools have a duty to protect their students, whom are usually minor children that parents have entrusted to the schools to care for during the school day.

One matter that is often raised when a student is injured while playing sports at school is whether the student assumed the risk of injury by playing the sport, and/or has signed a release or waiver in order to participate in the sport. Usually however releases and/or waivers cannot be completed for activities that take place at school during the regular school day, but may be required to participate in extracurricular sports or activities, and frequently for field trips.

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