GEORGE GIANNACOPOULOS v. RIDGEFIELD BOARD OF EDUCATION
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE
APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY
DOCKET NO. A-1913-04T31913-04T3
GEORGE GIANNACOPOULOS, a
minor, by his natural PARENT,
RIDGEFIELD BOARD OF
BOROUGH OF RIDGEFIELD, and
YOUNG SONG, parent of
Submitted February 15, 2006 - Decided March 7, 2006
Before Judges Kestin and Lefelt.
On appeal from the Superior Court of
of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen
County, Docket No. L-634-02.
Michael S. Kimm, attorney for appellant.
Parsons, Powell & Lane, attorneys for
respondent/defendant (Jose D. Roman,
on the brief).
While playing indoor soccer during gym class in his Ridgefield High School gymnasium, plaintiff George Giannacopoulos was injured by the unprovoked assault of another student, Edward Song. Plaintiff, by his mother Vivian Giannacopoulos, sued defendants Song for the assault and the Ridgefield Board of Education for the gym teacher's alleged negligent supervision. Plaintiff obtained a default judgment against Song, but now appeals from Judge De La Cruz's summary judgment in favor of the Ridgefield Board of Education.
To prevail in his action against the Board, plaintiff must establish that the gym teacher's negligence while supervising the students was a proximate cause of his injuries and losses. See N.J.S.A. 59:2-2(a) ("[a] public entity is liable for injury proximately caused by an act or omission of a public employee within the scope of his employment in the same manner and to the same extent as a private individual under like circumstances"); Law v. Newark Bd. of Educ., 175 N.J. Super. 26, 32-33 (App. Div. 1980). To obtain damages for pain and suffering from the Board, plaintiff must establish that he suffered a "permanent loss of a bodily function, permanent disfigurement or dismemberment where the medical treatment expenses are in excess of $3,600." N.J.S.A. 59:9-2.
Whether or not plaintiff has established, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 59:9-2, sufficient evidence of permanent loss or disfigurement and of medical treatment expenses for his dental injuries to cross the pain and suffering threshold for public entities, Judge De La Cruz, in a comprehensive written decision, found that plaintiff's proofs failed to include sufficient evidence of negligence to survive summary judgment. She stated "[t]he Court has not been presented with any evidence that Defendant Song was visibly upset or agitated after he was struck during the course of the game nor that [the gym teacher] had other reason to anticipate such an altercation between the two young men under these circumstances." The judge also found that "according to Plaintiff's own deposition testimony, the altercation with Defendant Song was a sudden, unexpected event that began and ended within approximately 15 to 20 seconds."
Consequently, Judge De La Cruz was "satisfied that Plaintiff has not demonstrated that [the gym teacher] failed to exercise reasonable care under these circumstances since there was no reason to know or expect that such an altercation was to occur." Review of the record, in a light most favorable to plaintiff, supports Judge De La Cruz's finding that plaintiff's claim against the Board could not succeed. Brill v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 142 N.J. 520, 540 (1995).
We agree completely with the judge's liability observations and affirm substantially on this basis. See e.g., Doktor v. Greenberg, 58 N.J. Super. 155, 160-61 (App. Div. 1959), certif. denied, 31 N.J. 548 (1960).
March 7, 2006