This was the allegation in Jimenez v. Roseville City School District, a case recently weighed by the California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District. In this case, the risky activity was break dancing, a style of street dancing that is popular among youth, and associated with hip-hop and rap music. It’s an extremely physically demanding type of dance, and it does occasionally perform risky moves, such as spinning on one’s head, twisting, bending, jerking and sometimes flipping.
According to court records, plaintiff was a 14-year-old middle school student at defendant school district when he was injured while attempting to perform a flip while practicing break dancing with a group of his fellow students. The group was practicing in a classroom with the teacher’s permission, but the teacher had left the room at the time the injury occurred.
The boy’s parents later filed a lawsuit alleging negligent supervision. The school district argued back that the young teen assumed the risk of injury by participating in break dancing.
The group had previously been spotted practicing on school grounds and had been warned by an assistant principle not to try to perform any flips, that it was too dangerous. However, his message was not relayed to the teacher in question.
The teacher, meanwhile, was approached by the students and asked if they could use his empty classroom to practice their break dancing for an upcoming talent show. The teacher agreed and had the students sign the requisite general injury release forms. The teacher said he had never seen the students do flips, did not know that it was a form of break dancing and never instructed the students not to do it. He gave no instructions to the teens on how to perform break dancing or how to flip. He also did not inform the principle that the students were practicing in his classroom because he said he didn’t feel it was necessary.
Plaintiff was just learning how to break dance and had never before done a flip. He was “iffy” about it, but was encouraged by the other boys to try it. He now has no memory of how he became injured, after suffering a traumatic brain injury.
It is known that the teacher left the class. Another student who was there testified a fellow student grabbed the plaintiff’s arm and flipped him despite his protests, causing the serious personal injury. But there were conflicting accounts of this.
The district court granted summary judgment to the defense, finding, after hearing from a break dancing expert, that the dance could involve flips and the student assumed the risk of injury in so doing and the school had no duty to protect him from that inherent risk.
The appeals court, in viewing the facts in the light most favorable to plaintiff, reversed. It found that plaintiff’s argument that at least one school district employee knew or should have known students were “flipping” in violation of the rules and yet plaintiff was left entirely unsupervised could be the basis for jurors to find this lack of supervision proximately caused the student’s injuries.
The case is now remanded for trial.
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Jimenez v. Roseville City School District, May 19, 2016, California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District
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