Sued for Injury During Recess
A distraught teacher calls OECTA's Counselling and Member Services Department on the advice of her unit president. She has just received a Statement of Claim from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. The 20 page Statement says that a former student is suing the teacher, her principal, the director and the school board for $1,000,000 over serious and permanent injuries as a result of an accident during recess. The student, or plaintiff, alleges that the teacher, or defendant, was negligent.
Although the wording of the statement of claim seems shocking, the teacher is advised not to panic. The OECTA counsellor explains that the teacher and others named in the claim will be defended by the school board's insurance company Ontario School Board Insurance Exchange (OSBIE). OSBIE will contact her shortly. If she does not receive a call soon, she should ask her principal who is also named in the suit, to bring the matter to the attention of the school board.
The counsellor explains that although the teacher will be defended by the OSBIE lawyer, OECTA's lawyer may also maintain a "watching brief" on the case. The counsellor asks the teacher to fax the Statement of Claim to OECTA's provincial office so that it can be forwarded to the Association's law firm for review.
We live in an increasingly litigious society. Parents sue school boards for damages more frequently, and teachers may be named in civil law suits. In many cases, the plaintiff names a wide range of people from the teacher and director of education to the board itself. School boards are required to carry liability insurance to cover these circumstances, and are responsible for alleged negligence of employees. The board insurance company will defend all board employees named in this action, including the teacher.
OECTA maintains "watching briefs" to protect members in the unlikely event that the insurance company legal counsel does not defend the teacher. This happens rarely, if there is reason to argue that the teacher was "acting outside the scope of his or her employment," by doing something without board approval. If it can be proven that the board is not liable for an employee's negligence, then the insurance company would not be liable, and the teacher would be personally liable. In such a case, OECTA defends the member.