Nicholas Arroyo was a three year old student at the Hebrew Academy for Special Children (HASC). On July 8, 2009, he was left unattended on a school bus owned and operated by We Transport, Inc. for six hours when he did not exit the school bus upon its arrival at HASC. Nicholas's parents sued the bus company and HSAC, both on his behalf and their own, claiming the school had a special duty to ensure Nicholas's removal from the bus due to his special needs and that they breached this duty. The trial court denied the school's motion for summary judgment, and the school appealed.
A school's duty to its students is dependent on its physical custody of the students. Here, Nicholas never passed into custody of the school on July 8, 2009, because he never exited the bus and entered campus. Therefore, the court ruled that the school met its prima facie burden of showing it did not owe a duty to Nicholas.
The parents alleged that the school had a special duty to ensure the safe arrival of students based on the school policy to ascertain and confirm the whereabouts of children who are absent from class. The court noted, however, that the parents must have known of and relied on that practice or policy to their detriment. Nicholas's parents were not aware of this policy until after the incident, so they could not have relied on it to ensure their son's safety.
HSAC submitted evidence that it did not cause Nicholas to be left on the bus and did not have a duty to check the bus each day to make sure all riders had departed. The court on appeal overturned the trial court's ruling and granted the school's summary judgment dismissing the complaint against it. This ruling did not affect the parents' case against the bus company.
Arroyo v. We Transport, Inc., (2014) 987 N.Y.S.2d 426