Dailey v. Los Angeles Unified Sch. Dist.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtSULLIVAN; WRIGHT
Citation470 P.2d 360,2 Cal.3d 741,87 Cal.Rptr. 376
Parties, 470 P.2d 360 William Warren DAILEY et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. LOS ANGELES UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT et al., Defendants and Respondents. L.A. 29737
Decision Date25 June 1970

Page 376

87 Cal.Rptr. 376
2 Cal.3d 741, 470 P.2d 360
William Warren DAILEY et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants,
v.
LOS ANGELES UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT et al., Defendants and Respondents.
Supreme Court of California
L.A. 29737.
June 25, 1970.

Page 377

[470 P.2d 361] [2 Cal.3d 744] Jack I. Esensten, and Walter D. Janoff, Palos Verdes Estates, for plaintiffs and appellants.

Veatch, Carlson, Dorsey & Quimby, Robert C. Carlson and Henry F. Walker, Los Angeles, for defendants and respondents.

SULLIVAN, Justice.

During the noon recess of May 12, 1965, Michael Dailey, a 16-year-old high school student, was killed on the playground of Gardena High School. His parents brought this wrongful death action against the Los Angeles Unified School District which operated Gardena High School and against two teachers employed by the district. The case was tried to a jury. Plaintiffs sought to establish that defendants' negligence in failing to provide adequate supervision was the proximate cause of Michael's death. After both sides had rested, the trial court granted a motion for a [2 Cal.3d 745] directed verdict in favor of all defendants. Plaintiffs appeal from the judgment entered on that verdict.

The sole issue in this case is whether the motion for a directed verdict was properly granted. We carefully stated the law applicable to this inquiry in Estate of Lances (1932) 216 Cal. 397, 14 P.2d 768. We there held: 'A * * * directed verdict may be granted 'only when, disregarding conflicting evidence and giving to plaintiff's evidence all the value to which it is legally entitled, herein indulging in every legitimate inference which may be drawn from that evidence, the result is a determination that there is no evidence of sufficient substantiality to support a verdict in favor of the plaintiff if such a verdict were given.' (Citations.) Unless it can be said as a matter of law, that, when so considered, no other reasonable conclusion is legally deducible from the evidence, and that any other holding would be so lacking in evidentiary support that a reviewing court would be impelled to reverse it upon appeal or the trial court to set it aside as a matter of law, the trial court is not justified in taking the case from the jury. (Citation.) * * * the function of the trial

Page 378

[470 P.2d 362] court on a motion for a directed verdict is analogous to * * * that of a reviewing court in determining, on appeal, whether there is evidence in the record of sufficient substance to support a verdict. Although the trial court may weigh the evidence and judge of the credibility of the witnesses on a motion for a new trial, it may not do so on a motion for a directed verdict.' (216 Cal. at pp. 400--401, 14 P.2d at p. 768.) We have adhered consistently to the rules just set forth and have repeatedly reversed judgments entered on directed verdicts where the resisting party produced sufficient evidence to support a jury verdict in his favor. 1

With these principles in mind we proceed to consider the evidence in the record which is most favorable to plaintiffs and must be accepted as true. (Taylor v. Centennial Bowl, Inc., Supra, 65 Cal.2d 114, 117, 52 Cal.Rptr. 561, 416 P.2d 793.)

On the day of his death Michael and three of his friends ate lunch in an outdoor area designated for that purpose. After they finished eating, they proceeded to the boys' gymnasium where their next class was scheduled. When they reached the gym area, Michael and one of his friends began to 'slap fight' or 'slap box,' a form of boxing employing open hands rather than clenched fists and in which the object, at least initially, [2 Cal.3d 746] is to demonstrate speed and agility rather than to inflict physical injury on the opponent. They continued boxing for 5 to 10 minutes and a crowd of approximately 30 students gathered to watch. Suddenly, after being slapped, Michael fell backwards, fracturing his skull on the asphalt paving. He died that night.

Richard Ragus, who was boys' vice principal at Gardena High School when the incident occurred, testified as to the general plan for student supervision during the noon hour. It appears that all 2,700 students ate lunch during one session. While they were actually eating, students were required to remain in either the indoor cafeteria or the enclosed outdoor area noted above. When they had finished eating, however, they were free to use any part of the 55-acre campus except the parking lot. Three administrative personnel and two teachers were assigned to supervise students during the lunch period. The area around the gymnasium, however, was the specific responsibility of the physical education department.

Defendant Raymond Maggard was the chairman of the physical education department at Gardena High School. He acknowledged that his department had supervisory responsibility for the area in which the accident occurred, but asserted that he had never been informed by the school administration that it was his duty to assign a particular teacher to supervise on a particular day. 2 Maggard testified that there was no formal schedule assigning supervision times, and that supervision was left to the person in the gym office. Maggard himself was playing bridge in the dressing room while the slap boxing was going on.

Defendant Robert Daligney was a physical education instructor at Gardena High School. He was 'the person in the gym office' during the noon hour on May 12, 1965. Like defendant Maggard, he recognized that his department had the responsibility to supervise the athletic field and the paved area immediately surrounding the gym. He conceded that there was no set procedure for determining who was to supervise on particular days or what their duties were in regard to supervision. Daligney spent the entire noon hour in the

Page 379

[470 P.2d 363] office, eating lunch and preparing for afternoon classes. The desk at which he was seated faced away from the office windows and a wall obscured the view of the area in which the slap boxing took place. He concurred with Maggard that while slap boxing was a normal activity for male high school students, it could lead to 'something dangerous.' He testified that initially friendly slap boxing could escalate into actual fighting and that when he observed students engaging in it he would order them to stop immediately. Daligney did not step outside [2 Cal.3d 747] the office during the noon period, did not notice a crowd, and recalled hearing no noises which would have indicated a disturbance outside the gymnasium.

William McDowell was a friend of Michael Dailey and had accompanied him from the lunch area to the gym. He admitted having participated in slap boxing matches but testified that he would not begin to slap box if a teacher were present and would immediately stop once a teacher appeared.

Before we can decide whether or not the foregoing evidence is suffficient to support a verdict in plaintiffs' favor, we must determine what, if any, duty is owed by those in defendants' position to students on school grounds. While school districts and their employees have never been considered insurers of the physical safety or students, California law has long imposed on school authorities a duty to 'supervise at all times the conduct of the children on the school grounds and to enforce those rules and regulations necessary to their protection. (Citations.)' (Taylor v. Oakland Scavenger Co. (1941) 17 Cal.2d 594, 600, 110 P.2d 1044, 1048; Education Code, section 13557. See generally, Seitz, Legal Responsibility Under Tort Law of School Personnel and School Districts as Regards Negligent Conduct Toward Pupils (1964) 15 Hast.L.J. 495; Note, Negligence Liability of Schoolteachers in California (1964) 15 Hast.L.J. 567.) The standard of care imposed upon school personnel in carrying out this duty to supervise is identical to that required in the performance of their other duties. This...

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163 practice notes
  • Allison C. v. Advanced Educ. Services, No. E034358.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • May 18, 2005
    ...in the place of parents, to their students, with similar powers and responsibilities.'"]; Dailey v. Los Angeles Unified Sch. Dist. (1970) 2 Cal.3d 741, 747, 87 Cal.Rptr. 376, 470 P.2d 360 [standard imposed on school personnel in discharging their supervisory duty of care is that "`which a p......
  • Delos v. Farmers Group, Inc.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • May 30, 1979
    ...the record to support a verdict against defendants to warrant the denial of the motion. (Dailey v. Los Angeles Unified Sch. Dist. (1970) 2 Cal.3d 741, 745, 87 Cal.Rptr. 376, 470 P.2d Mr. Delos also sued for damages because defendants failed to comply with the requirements of Insurance Code ......
  • Lackner v. North, No. C047061.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • January 24, 2006
    ...(Hoff, supra, 19 Cal.4th at p. 932, 80 Cal.Rptr.2d 811, 968 P.2d 522, quoting Dailey v. Los Angeles Unified Sch. Dist. (1970) 2 Cal.3d 741, 747, 87 Cal.Rptr. 376, 470 P.2d 360.) Because Chico's liability is dependent upon Bender's liability, we next consider whether Bender owed Lackner a du......
  • Hilliard v. A. H. Robins Co.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 27, 1983
    ...jury." (Emphasis added.) (Estate of Lances (1932) 216 Cal. 397, 400, 14 P.2d 768; accord, Dailey v. Los Angeles Unified Sch. Dist. (1970) 2 Cal.3d 741, 745, 87 Cal.Rptr. 376, 470 P.2d 360; Walker v. Northern San Diego County Hospital Dist., supra, 135 Cal.App.3d 896, 899-900, 185 Cal.Rptr. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
163 cases
  • Allison C. v. Advanced Educ. Services, No. E034358.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • May 18, 2005
    ...in the place of parents, to their students, with similar powers and responsibilities.'"]; Dailey v. Los Angeles Unified Sch. Dist. (1970) 2 Cal.3d 741, 747, 87 Cal.Rptr. 376, 470 P.2d 360 [standard imposed on school personnel in discharging their supervisory duty of care is that "`which a p......
  • Delos v. Farmers Group, Inc.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • May 30, 1979
    ...the record to support a verdict against defendants to warrant the denial of the motion. (Dailey v. Los Angeles Unified Sch. Dist. (1970) 2 Cal.3d 741, 745, 87 Cal.Rptr. 376, 470 P.2d Mr. Delos also sued for damages because defendants failed to comply with the requirements of Insurance Code ......
  • Lackner v. North, No. C047061.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • January 24, 2006
    ...(Hoff, supra, 19 Cal.4th at p. 932, 80 Cal.Rptr.2d 811, 968 P.2d 522, quoting Dailey v. Los Angeles Unified Sch. Dist. (1970) 2 Cal.3d 741, 747, 87 Cal.Rptr. 376, 470 P.2d 360.) Because Chico's liability is dependent upon Bender's liability, we next consider whether Bender owed Lackner a du......
  • Hilliard v. A. H. Robins Co.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 27, 1983
    ...jury." (Emphasis added.) (Estate of Lances (1932) 216 Cal. 397, 400, 14 P.2d 768; accord, Dailey v. Los Angeles Unified Sch. Dist. (1970) 2 Cal.3d 741, 745, 87 Cal.Rptr. 376, 470 P.2d 360; Walker v. Northern San Diego County Hospital Dist., supra, 135 Cal.App.3d 896, 899-900, 185 Cal.Rptr. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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