Christofides v. Hellenic Eastern Orthodox Christian Church of New York

CourtNew York City Municipal Court
Writing for the CourtGEORGE STARKE
Citation227 N.Y.S.2d 946,33 Misc.2d 741
PartiesAlexander CHRISTOFIDES, an infant under the age of fourteen years, by his guardian ad litem Sergios Christofides, and Sergios Christofides, Plaintiffs, v. HELLENIC EASTERN ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCH OF NEW YORK, Defendant.
Decision Date09 May 1962

Page 946

227 N.Y.S.2d 946
33 Misc.2d 741
Alexander CHRISTOFIDES, an infant under the age of fourteen
years, by his guardian ad litem Sergios
Christofides, and Sergios Christofides, Plaintiffs,
v.
HELLENIC EASTERN ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCH OF NEW YORK, Defendant.
Municipal Court of City of New York, Borough of Manhattan,
Ninth District.
May 9, 1962.

Page 947

[33 Misc.2d 742] Schifrin & Schnapper, New York City, Harvey Felton, Mount Vernon, of counsel, for plaintiffs.

Lynch, Smith & Kelly, New York City, James F. X. Ryan, New York City, of counsel, for defendant.

GEORGE STARKE, Justice.

In this action recovery is sought for personal injuries inflicted upon the infant plaintiff by another classmate due to negligence of the school in failing to provide supervision in the classroom.

The pupils were required to report to their classrooms at 8:30 A. M. On the morning of April 22, 1958, the plaintiff and almost every other pupil in the class reported on time. There was no teacher present to supervise them. When the bell rang at 8:45 A. M. for the commencement of the class lessons, the teacher was still absent. About ten minutes later, the incident occurred wherein plaintiff was stabbed in the hand by another boy. There still was no teacher present in the classroom. From 8:30 A. M. to 8:55 A. M. most of the boys indulged in horseplay and fighting with one another, and in running and chasing each other around the room. The boy who did the stabbing was seen wielding a knife for about five or ten minutes prior to the actual stabbing.

There were a total lack of supervision in the classroom for a period of 25 minutes prior to the stabbing for which there was no provocation. Some slight evidence, not much, but some at least, was presented that the boy who did the stabbing was an unruly and mischievous boy and had been reprimanded previously by the teacher for misconduct. There was no proof whatever of a prior similar act.

Both sides rely on Ohman v. City of New York, 300 N.Y. 306, 90 N.E.2d 474 (citing Maurer v. Board of Education of the City of New York, 294 N.Y. 672, 60 N.E.2d 759; Clark v. City of Buffalo, 288 N.Y . 62, 41 N.E.2d 459; Berner v. Board of Education, 286 N.Y. 174, 36 N.E.2d 100; Graff v. Board of Education, 258 App.Div. 813, 15 N.Y.S.2d 941, affd. 283 N.Y. 574, 27 N.E.2d 438). The defendant also relies on the Clark case, supra, and on Kaufman v. City of New York, 30 Misc.2d 285, 214 N.Y.S.2d 767.

Page 948

The defendant contends that mere lack of supervision in and of itself does not make the school liable when the act causing the injuries is that of an intervening party without any proof of a 'prior similar act' or of knowledge of the boy's 'vicious propensities'; that even assuming, but not conceding, that the teacher was negligent in being absent from the classroom, it does not follow that the school is liable for the consequences of [33 Misc.2d 743] an unforeseen act by a third party which hardly could have been anticipated in the reasonable exercise of the teacher's legal duty towards the plaintiff; that the absence of the teacher was not the proximate cause of the injury which was not reasonably foreseeable and could have occurred even if the teacher had been in the room; and that whether or not the duty of supervision was breached is not the controlling issue, but that the issue is 'would the incident and injury have been prevented had a teacher been present?'

It is true that in all of these cases, there was no supervision and that the plaintiff was not permitted to recover. However, the facts in those cases are readily distinguishable from the case at bar. In the Ohman case, supra, a pupil was struck in the eye by a lead pencil thrown by a classmate while the teacher was absent from the room. In the Maurer case, supra, the plaintiff was injured by having a finger stuck into his eye by another boy swimming in the same pool in the opposite direction, contrary to instructions, and no instructor was present. In the Clark case, supra, the plaintiff was struck in the eye by a piece of glass thrown by a boy, when there was no supervision. In the Kaufman case, supra, a boy sustained head injuries and died as a result of bumping heads with another boy in a basketball game in a college gymnasium and no instructor had been present in the room. In the Berner case, supra, the pupil's eye was injured as she turned the corridor on her way to the classroom when one boy threw the ball to another boy, and there was no supervision of the children at the time of the occurrence. In the Graff case, supra, the pupil was injured by a ball thrown by one of the pupils while all the students were lawfully in the school yard during the lunch period but without any supervision.

It is easy to differentiate the facts in the case at bar by reason of the fact that the plaintiff was injured by a knife with a three-inch blade held in the hands of another pupil, and not by the tossing of an ordinary lead pencil (Ohman case, supra), a finger poked in a pupil's eye while swimming (Maurer case), a thrown rubber shall (Berner and Graff cases), or the bumping of heads in a basketball game (Kaufman case). The defendant overlooks the fact that in the Ohman case (supra, p. 310, 90 N.E.2d p. 475) the court said:

'* * * nor can anyone seriously contend that a pencil in the hands of a school pupil is a dangerous instrumentality.'

Page 949

And in the Graff case (supra, p. 813, 15 N.Y.S.2d p. 942) the court said:

'No negligence on the part of an instructor had been shown. In the light of the fact that the object which struck the infant plaintiff was a rubber ball, which was not shown to have been of an inherently dangerous nature.'

[33 Misc.2d 744] Quite the contrary here. Common sense dictates and one can seriously contend that a knife with a three-inch blade in the hands of a school pupil is per se a 'dangerous instrumentality.'

This leaves the Clark case, supra, open for discussion which the defendant urges is very similar to the case at bar. One may with reason argue that stones and small pieces of glass might under certain conditions be deemed a dangerous instrumentality, particularly when hurled. There the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
2 practice notes
  • Sheehan v. St. Peter's Catholic School, No. 42481
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • July 16, 1971
    ...necessary to prove that the particular accident which occurred was foreseeable. Christofides v. Hellenic Eastern Ortho. Christian Church, 33 Misc.2d 741, 227 N.Y.S.2d 946, reviews and distinguishes many of the supervision decisions. In that case, a child was stabbed by another student durin......
  • Alferoff by Alferoff v. Casagrande by Casagrande
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • July 21, 1986
    ...classroom (see, Gonzalez v. Mackler, 19 A.D.2d 229, 241 N.Y.S.2d 254; Christofides v. Hellenic Eastern Orthodox Christian Church of N.Y., 33 Misc.2d 741, 227 N.Y.S.2d 946). The charge to the jury on liability, moreover, was We further conclude that the pain and suffering award to the infant......
2 cases
  • Sheehan v. St. Peter's Catholic School, No. 42481
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • July 16, 1971
    ...necessary to prove that the particular accident which occurred was foreseeable. Christofides v. Hellenic Eastern Ortho. Christian Church, 33 Misc.2d 741, 227 N.Y.S.2d 946, reviews and distinguishes many of the supervision decisions. In that case, a child was stabbed by another student durin......
  • Alferoff by Alferoff v. Casagrande by Casagrande
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • July 21, 1986
    ...classroom (see, Gonzalez v. Mackler, 19 A.D.2d 229, 241 N.Y.S.2d 254; Christofides v. Hellenic Eastern Orthodox Christian Church of N.Y., 33 Misc.2d 741, 227 N.Y.S.2d 946). The charge to the jury on liability, moreover, was We further conclude that the pain and suffering award to the infant......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT