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Florida Fourth DCA rules that county school board was not liable under zone of risk theory for injuries to child who was struck by motor vehicle while crossing street to school bus stop

On September 29, 2021, in School Board of Palm Beach County v. Edwards, No. 4D20-1476, the Florida Fourth DCA reversed as trial court order which had denied the defendant Palm Beach County’s summary judgment motion in a negligence case involving a child who was struck by a motor vehicle while crossing the road to reach her school bus stop. The plaintiff alleged that the County’s school board created a foreseeable zone of risk through either its placement of the bus stop or its unclear communication of the stop’s location. The Fourth DCA quoted extensively from its previous decision in Francis v. School Board of Palm Beach County, 29 So. 3d 441, 442 (Fla. 4th DCA 2010), in which a lawsuit was filed against the school board after a child was killed while walking across the street to a bus stop. The Francis court stated that “[a] governmental entity that creates a known, dangerous condition which might not be readily apparent, and has knowledge of the presence of people likely to be injured, has a duty to avert the danger or properly warn those who might be injured.” Id. at 444. But, as the Fourth DCA also pointed out, “the duty to warn is limited and arises only where the dangerous condition is “so serious and so inconspicuous . . . that it virtually constitutes a trap.” In the instant case, the Fourth DCA concluded, as in Francis, that there was no such “trap” under the circumstances because the school board neither created the busy roadway nor had custody of the child when the accident occurred. Therefore, the child was outside the school board’s duty of care.

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