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N.J. Supreme Court Finds School District Not Liable for Failure to Notify Parent of Vision Tests Results

By on September 6, 2016 in Students with 1 Comment

The parents of a student, who developed a vision impairment, sued the Mullica Township Board of Education (“Board”) under the New Jersey Tort Claims Act (“TCA”) for the school nurse’s failure to inform them that the student failed a visual acuity test during the 2001-2002 school year. In 2004, the student again failed the test. At that time, the school nurse notified the parents of the results of both tests. On August 17, 2016, New Jersey Supreme Court in Parsons v. Mullica Township Board of Education, _N.J._(2016) ruled that the TCA immunized the Board, as a public entity, from liability because reporting the results of the tests are part of a preventative public health examination.

N.J.S.A. 59:6-4 of the TCA shields public entities from liability for failing to perform an adequate physical or mental examination for the purposes of determining whether the individual has a disease or physical or mental condition. What tests are considered “examinations” under the TCA? Is the reporting process part of an examination? The New Jersey Supreme Court answered these questions in its recent decision.

The Supreme Court first determined that the visual acuity test given to the student constituted a “physical examination” under the TCA. The parents’ unsuccessfully argued that they should be permitted to pursue their TCA claims on the basis that reporting the results of the test fell outside of an examination. In contrast, the Board argued that reporting the results is not separate and distinct from the examination, as contemplated by the TCA. In rejecting the parents’ argument, the Supreme Court relied upon the standards of the American Medical Association and Mayo Clinic and concluded that a complete examination as defined by the TCA includes communicating the results to the parents.

The Supreme Court also recognized the Legislature’s intent in enacting the TCA – to provide compensation to tort victims without “unduly interfering with governmental functions and without imposing an excessive burden on taxpayers.” Liability under the TCA is exception, not the rule. The TCA’s immunities provided to school districts and other public entities are absolute. Any ambiguities lean towards favoring immunity.

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Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev

About the Author

About the Author:

Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev, Esq. concentrates her practice on the representation of boards of education and charter schools in all areas of school law including: labor and employment, special education, Section 504, student discipline, FERPA, Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, student residency, civil rights, tenure, OPRA, and OPMA. In connection with these representations, she is experienced in handling matters before State and Federal courts, including the Office of Administrative Law. Ms. Dev is an experienced special education litigator and defends school districts in due process hearings from inception through trial. In addition, she has handled matters before governmental agencies, including the U.S. Office for Civil Rights and New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. Ms. Dev routinely conducts training and seminars, drafts policies and manuals, and provides strategic advice to school administrators regarding school law issues. Ms. Dev was recently recognized as one of South Jersey’s Awesome Attorneys as published by South Jersey Magazine. She is licensed to practice law in New Jersey, the District Court for the District of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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There is 1 Brilliant Comment

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  1. Avatar Rachel Dennis says:

    Does anyone have any journals they can recommend that talk about the case of rachel parsons v. mullica township board of education? I am writing a research paper for a nursing class. Thank you.

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