Ortega vs Marion and Aaron – Decision

I told Juan that while I fully understood and felt quite sympathetic for his obvious distress, I had to decide that both Marion, as the home room teacher and Aaron, as Diego’s public school principal, were not legally responsible for the loss of the coat.

I noted the fact that the coat closet was not a separate locked cloak room; it was instead an unstaffed and unguarded room in Marion’s home room, to be used by her class to leave their outer clothing and etc in the morning and take their things out when the class ended.

Neither the teacher nor the principal had a key to the closet or a legal duty to secure the closet or to supervise the removal of its contents by the children, in my opinion.

Another fact was that the school did not provide a system of checking contents in and out of the closet, as the children simply left their coats on whatever hook was available when they arrived. The school was in any case not required to do so, in my opinion.

There was one other legal point of law in the case.

Generally, the State Court of Claims has jurisdiction over claims for damages against State agencies and their employees arising out of breaches of duties owed to an injured party. However, if the suit is for damages against an individual for negligence, breach of contract, wrongful termination of employment and the like, it should probably be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction by the Small Claims Court judge, if it clearly arose from the defendants’ duties in their official capacity.

In this case, there was no duty on the part of the defendants to secure the closet, in my opinion. For that reason, I did not recommend that the case be dismissed on that ground.

Do you agree?


4 thoughts on “Ortega vs Marion and Aaron – Decision

  1. If law enforcement was called before school was dismissed, couldn’t they have walked around the school and checked each classroom and possibly caught the student that helped themselves to Digeo’s coat.
    In my opinion, students seeing law enforcement involved could deter students from helping themselves to other students belongings.

  2. I hope Ortega now realized that he should not spend that kind of money on his son’s clothing.
    I agree with the decision.

  3. Juan’s emotions aside, there is no responsibility on the part of the school staff to control contents of a clothing closet and who belongs to what article of clothing. File a police report and declare it as a loss on your tax filings. Or, if there is home insurance in force, file a claim.

  4. Unfortunately there does not seem any alternative to your decision. The probability is that someone who is in and out of that coatroom on a daily basis took the coat especially since it was in the room for such a short time. It seems it was not even in there long enough for maintenance personnel to have noticed it. So one is left with the other children or the homeroom teacher. A principal or other school personnel would hardly have reason to go into another classroom’s coatroom. It never pays to supply one’s children with superior clothing. It disappears. I made a point of buying my son an extensive and stylish wardrobe when he went off to college. I should not have bothered. I never saw any of the new clothes again and when I asked him what happened to them he seemingly had no idea and could care less. Unless your child is a fashionista, that attitude is par for the course.

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