Jackson v. Putnam County Bd. of Educ., No. 33038.

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtPer Curiam
Citation653 S.E.2d 632
Docket NumberNo. 33038.
Decision Date24 May 2007
PartiesSusan M. JACKSON, Administratrix of the Estate of Timothy J. Jackson, Plaintiff Below, Appellant v. The PUTNAM COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION, Defendant Below, Appellee.
653 S.E.2d 632
Susan M. JACKSON, Administratrix of the Estate of Timothy J. Jackson, Plaintiff Below, Appellant
v.
The PUTNAM COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION, Defendant Below, Appellee.
No. 33038.
Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.
Submitted September 20, 2006.
Decided May 24, 2007.
Dissenting Opinion of Justice Starcher June 27, 2007.
Concurring Opinion of Chief Justice Davis June 29, 2007.

[653 S.E.2d 633]

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. "The summary judgment procedure provided by Rule 56 of the West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure does not infringe the constitutional right of a party to a trial by jury; it is not a substitute for a trial or a trial either by a jury or by the court of an issue of fact, but is a determination that, as a matter of law, there is no issue of fact to be tried." Syllabus Point 7, Petros v. Kellas, 146 W.Va. 619, 122 S.E.2d 177 (1961).

2. "A motion for summary judgment should be granted only when it is clear that there is no genuine issue of fact to be tried and inquiry concerning the facts is not desirable to clarify the application of the law." Syllabus Point 3, Aetna Casualty and Surety Company v. Federal Insurance Company of New York, 148 W.Va. 160, 133 S.E.2d 770 (1963).

3. "The determination of whether a defendant in a particular case owes a duty to the plaintiff is not a factual question for the jury; rather the determination of whether a plaintiff is owed a duty of care by a defendant must be rendered by the court as a matter of law." Syllabus Point 5, Aikens v. Debow, 208 W.Va. 486, 541 S.E.2d 576 (2000).

4. "If the moving party makes a properly supported motion for summary judgment and can show by affirmative evidence that there is no genuine issue of a material fact, the burden of production shifts to the

[653 S.E.2d 634]

nonmoving party who must either (1) rehabilitate the evidence attacked by the moving party, (2) produce additional evidence showing the existence of a genuine issue for trial, or (3) submit an affidavit explaining why further discovery is necessary as provided in Rule 56(f) of the West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure." Syllabus Point 3, Williams v. Precision Coil, Inc., 194 W.Va. 52, 459 S.E.2d 329 (1995).

5. "`Proximate cause' must be understood to be that cause which in actual sequence, unbroken by any independent cause, produced the wrong complained of, without which the wrong would not have occurred." Syllabus Point 3, Webb v. Sessler, 135 W.Va. 341, 63 S.E.2d 65 (1950).

Bernard E. Layne, III, Greg R. Lord, Sharon McKeny Lord, Lord, Lord & Layne Charleston, for the Appellant.

Stephen M. Fowler, Julie M. Meeks, Travis A. Griffith, Pullin, Fowler & Flanagan, Charleston, for the Appellee.

PER CURIAM:


This action is before this Court upon the appeal of Susan M. Jackson, Administratrix of the Estate of her son, Timothy J. Jackson, from the June 29, 2005, order of the Circuit Court of Putnam County, West Virginia, granting summary judgment in favor of the Putnam County Board of Education. Timothy, a student at Winfield High School, died as the result of a single-vehicle accident on Interstate 77. The driver of the vehicle, Brian C. Ramsburg, was a classmate, and he and Timothy were returning home from a weekend retreat for the school choir held at a campground in Kanawha County. Appellant Jackson alleged in the complaint that the Putnam County Board of Education had a duty to provide transportation to the students attending the retreat and that the Board's breach of that duty resulted in the death of her son. In granting summary judgment in favor of the Board, however, the Circuit Court found no such duty and, moreover, determined that, even if such a duty existed, the failure to provide transportation to the retreat was not, as a matter of law, a proximate cause of Timothy's death.

This Court has before it the petition for appeal, all matters of record which were before the Circuit Court and the briefs and argument of counsel Upon the applicable standards of review and for the reasons stated below, this Court is of the opinion that the Circuit Court was correct in granting summary judgment in favor of the Board. Accordingly, the order of the Circuit Court of Putnam County entered on June 29, 2005, is affirmed.

I.
Factual Background

During the 2001-02 school year, a class was offered at Winfield High School, through auditions, known as the General Admission Show Choir. Although some students participated in the Choir as an extracurricular activity, many students, such as Timothy J. Jackson, were enrolled in the Choir for school credit. The record indicates that the Show Choir had in excess of 40 student members. The objectives of the Choir included the teaching of music and dance to the students and the preparation of the Choir for competitions and ceremonial performances. To achieve those objectives, various mandatory rehearsals and retreats, in addition to classroom instruction, were scheduled by the Choir's Director, Jeffrey A. Haught, a teacher at Winfield High School.

At the beginning of the 2001-02 year, Haught distributed a flyer entitled "GA Retreat '01 Info," notifying students and parents that a retreat would be conducted at Rippling Waters Campgrounds near Sissonville, West Virginia, during the weekend of September 28-30. Rippling Waters is approximately 40 miles from Winfield High School by way of Charleston, West Virginia, and Interstate 77. Transportation by school or chartered bus was not planned for the retreat, and the flyer indicated that Haught was to receive notice, in advance, concerning the travel arrangements of each student. In the latter regard, the flyer stated: "Parents are discouraged from allowing students to drive other students without parental accompaniment.

653 S.E.2d 635

Please refer to the Handbook for such guidelines."

The Handbook, prepared by Director Haught, exclusively concerned the Choir and was entitled "General Admission Handbook of Policies and Procedures." It contained a number of rules and guidelines for individual travel, as well as travel by bus, to Show Choir events. The portions of the Handbook relevant to this action provided:

From time to time, GA members will travel individually to an event. This usually occurs when the distance is small enough to allow day trips, when GA is performing in the immediate area, or when the cost of renting a bus is prohibitive.

Members will present to the Director IN WRITING PRIOR TO THE TRIP how they will arrive at the event, who will be driving and who will be riding with them. (This is done to insure that every member's travel arrangements are accounted for, and so that the Director and parents are aware of who their child is riding with).

In these instances, General Admission's, and the Director's liability, is limited to the period from the member's arrival at the event site until dismissal from the event. All other liability for the child's safety lies with the parent, or their designated drivers.

Parents are STRONGLY discouraged from allowing students to drive to events unaccompanied by parents.

As stated above, members are to remain on site until dismissed from the event.

Again, the child's safety is of utmost importance, and parents should exercise their wisdom, good judgment and discretion when planning travel arrangements.

(emphasis in the original)1

On September 28, 2001, Larry J. Jackson, Timothy's father, signed a Permission Statement indicating that he read and understood the General Admission Handbook and would abide by its guidelines and rules, as well as the relevant policies and regulations of Winfield High School, the Putnam County Board of Education and the State of West Virginia. Also on September 28, Mr. Jackson completed and signed a Health and Insurance Information form which described such matters as Timothy's allergies and current medications and which purported to release Director Haught, Winfield High School, the Putnam County Board of Education and others from claims arising from his son's "rehearsing, performing, or traveling with" the General Admission Show Choir.2 Both the Permission Statement and the Health and Insurance Information form were sent to parents of Choir members at the beginning of the school year. Although not signed by Mr. Jackson until September 28, those documents did not specifically refer to the upcoming retreat.

The record demonstrates, however, that, prior to the September 28-30 weekend, Haught received a note from Timothy stating that his father, Larry J. Jackson, would drive him to the Rippling Waters Campgrounds. Timothy had ridden to and from previous Choir retreats and other events with Mr. Jackson.

Nevertheless, during his deposition, Larry J. Jackson testified that he and Timothy had reached a joint decision that Timothy would travel to the retreat with classmate Brian C.

653 S.E.2d 636

Ramsburg, and Mr. Jackson saw them leave from Timothy's home in Ramsburg's pick-up truck. This change in travel arrangements was never communicated to Director Haught or to any other school official. Approximately 40 students attended the retreat which concluded at 6:00 p.m., Sunday, September 30, 2001. Unknown to Haught, Timothy left Rippling Waters Campgrounds with Ramsburg.3 On the return to Putnam County, Ramsburg, driving at an excessive rate of speed on Interstate 77, lost control of the pick-up truck causing it to turn over on the highway. Timothy, who was not wearing a seatbelt, died as a result of the accident.

II.
Procedural Background

On September 26, 2003, appellant Jackson filed a wrongful death action in the Circuit Court of Putnam County against the appellee, the Putnam County Board of Education. The complaint, sounding in negligence, alleged, inter alia, that the Board had a duty to provide transportation to the students attending the weekend retreat and that the Board's breach of that duty resulted in the death of her son, Timothy J. Jackson.4

Thereafter, on August 10,...

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8 practice notes
  • Savarese v. Allstate Ins. Co., No. 33443.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • September 26, 2008
    ...record and are not properly before this Court. As we recently stated in Jackson v. Putnam County Board of Education, 221 W.Va. 170, 178, 653 S.E.2d 632, 640 (2007) (per curiam), "the parties have an obligation to `make sure that evidence relevant to a judicial determination be placed in the......
  • Perrine v. E.I. Du Pont De Nemours And Co., No. 34333
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • March 26, 2010
    ...Ins. Co. of New York, 148 W.Va. 160, 133 S.E.2d 770 (1963). Accord Syl. pt. 2, Jackson v. Putnam County Bd. of Educ., 221 W.Va. 170, 653 S.E.2d 632 (2007) (per curiam); Syl. pt. 1, Mueller v. American Elec. Power Energy Servs., Inc., 214 W.Va. 390, 589 S.E.2d 532 (2003) (per curiam). In oth......
  • Loudin v. Nat'l Liab. & Fire Ins. Co., No. 35763.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • October 24, 2011
    ...Fed. Ins. Co. of New York, 148 W.Va. 160, 133 S.E.2d 770 (1963). Accord Syl. pt. 2, Jackson v. Putnam Cnty. Bd. of Educ., 221 W.Va. 170, 653 S.E.2d 632 (2007); Syl. pt. 1, Mueller v. Am. Elec. Power Energy Servs., Inc., 214 W.Va. 390, 589 S.E.2d 532 (2003). In other words, “[t]he circuit co......
  • Mack-evans v. Hilltop Healthcare Ctr. Inc., No. 35338.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • September 16, 2010
    ...Ins. Co. of New York, 148 W.Va. 160, 133 S.E.2d 770 (1963). Accord Syl. pt. 2, Jackson v. Putnam County Bd. of Educ., 221 W.Va. 170, 653 S.E.2d 632 (2007); Syl. pt. 1, Mueller v. American Elec. Power Energy Servs., Inc., 214 W.Va. 390, 589 S.E.2d 532 (2003). In other words, “[t]he circuit c......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
8 cases
  • Savarese v. Allstate Ins. Co., No. 33443.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • September 26, 2008
    ...record and are not properly before this Court. As we recently stated in Jackson v. Putnam County Board of Education, 221 W.Va. 170, 178, 653 S.E.2d 632, 640 (2007) (per curiam), "the parties have an obligation to `make sure that evidence relevant to a judicial determination be placed in the......
  • Perrine v. E.I. Du Pont De Nemours And Co., No. 34333
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • March 26, 2010
    ...Ins. Co. of New York, 148 W.Va. 160, 133 S.E.2d 770 (1963). Accord Syl. pt. 2, Jackson v. Putnam County Bd. of Educ., 221 W.Va. 170, 653 S.E.2d 632 (2007) (per curiam); Syl. pt. 1, Mueller v. American Elec. Power Energy Servs., Inc., 214 W.Va. 390, 589 S.E.2d 532 (2003) (per curiam). In oth......
  • Loudin v. Nat'l Liab. & Fire Ins. Co., No. 35763.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • October 24, 2011
    ...Fed. Ins. Co. of New York, 148 W.Va. 160, 133 S.E.2d 770 (1963). Accord Syl. pt. 2, Jackson v. Putnam Cnty. Bd. of Educ., 221 W.Va. 170, 653 S.E.2d 632 (2007); Syl. pt. 1, Mueller v. Am. Elec. Power Energy Servs., Inc., 214 W.Va. 390, 589 S.E.2d 532 (2003). In other words, “[t]he circuit co......
  • Mack-evans v. Hilltop Healthcare Ctr. Inc., No. 35338.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • September 16, 2010
    ...Ins. Co. of New York, 148 W.Va. 160, 133 S.E.2d 770 (1963). Accord Syl. pt. 2, Jackson v. Putnam County Bd. of Educ., 221 W.Va. 170, 653 S.E.2d 632 (2007); Syl. pt. 1, Mueller v. American Elec. Power Energy Servs., Inc., 214 W.Va. 390, 589 S.E.2d 532 (2003). In other words, “[t]he circuit c......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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