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?