Synopsis of Rule of Law. Defendant teacher sexually abused Plaintiff middle school student.Â Plaintiff sued for negligence and the teacher and school district claimed contributory fault on Plaintiff’s part.Â The court did not permit a contributory fault defense in this case.
Issue. Whether contributory fault could be assessed against a 13 year old victim of sexual abuse for her participation in the relationship.
Held. Â No.Â Even though Washington courts have a long history of applying contributory fault to children in some instances, the same should not be applied in cases of sexual abuse, as public policy is directed to protecting children from such abuse.Â Moreover, a school has a â€œspecial relationshipâ€ with students and a duty to protect them from reasonably anticipated dangers.Â Thus, children do not have a duty to protect themselves from sexual abuse by their teachers.Â However, the school is not precluded from claiming that it is not negligent because Plaintiff lied about the relationship upon questioning, thereby thwarting the school’s efforts to ascertain if Plaintiff was being abused.Â At least one judge dissented, arguing that although a student is below the age of consent, she is not below the age of honesty.Â She should not be permitted to take advantage of a school’s duty to protect by forcing it to pay damages for injuries invited by the student.
Many special relationships give rise to a duty to prevent harms caused by the intentional or criminal conduct of third parties.View Full Point of Law