Field Trips and The Immunity from Liability for School Districts and its Employees
We all love going on field trips as a kid. It was a chance to explore, see different things, hang with friends, visit new places, learn new things, and most importantly, get out of the classroom. But, for parents, it could be a difficult time, letting your kids go with some stranger. Depending on them to supervise your kids. What happens if there is an accident while your child is on a field trip. Who is liable if your child is injured? The below is what every parent should know about field trips before they allow their kids to go. If your child is injured and that injury is caused by a district employee while on field trips, under California law, the district and the employee is immune from liability. This is called Field Trip Immunity. Field Trip Immunity absolves school districts and its employees from liability based on their negligence.
Education Code 35330 states in pertinent part: “All persons making the field trip or excursion shall be deemed to have waived all claims against the district…for injury, accident, illness, or death occurring during or by reason of the field trip or excursion.” In Casterson v. Superior Court, Casterson was a special education teacher takings students on an overnight field trip. They spent the night at a hotel. The plaintiff, a minor student, was pushed into the pool by another person and as result of nearly drowning, suffered physical and mental injuries. The suit alleged negligent supervision by the special education teacher. The appellate court held that the minor student (actually the minor’s parent) was barred from suing the school district because of Education Code 35330 (aka Field Trip Immunity). The court held that because this was a field trip, the lawsuit against a special education teacher (a district employee) was barred because the teacher was immune from liability. Casterson v. Superior Court (2002) 101 Cal.App.4th 177.
This is the same for colleges. In Barnhart, a community college soccer team was being driven by an employee of the college to a summer soccer league. The employee of the college caused an accident while driving the motor vehicle and injured players on the soccer team. The players brought a lawsuit against the employee and the college. The court ruled that the lawsuit was barred because of Field Trip Immunity (under a different nearly identical code section). The court dismissed the lawsuit because the college and the employee were immune from liability. Barnhart v. Cabrillo Community College (1999) 76 Cal.App.4th 818.
Please be aware of this when you decide to allow your kids to go on a field trip.