Spearman v. University City Public School Dist., No. 62183

CourtMissouri Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtDONNELLY; BARDGETT; BARDGETT
Citation617 S.W.2d 68
Decision Date08 June 1981
Docket NumberNo. 62183
PartiesJames SPEARMAN, Jr., a minor, by his mother and next friend, Evelyn Spearman, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. UNIVERSITY CITY PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT, etc., Defendant-Respondent. James SPEARMAN, Jr., a minor, by his mother and next friend, Evelyn Spearman, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Adolph HOSKINS, et al., Defendants-Respondents.

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617 S.W.2d 68
James SPEARMAN, Jr., a minor, by his mother and next friend,
Evelyn Spearman, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
UNIVERSITY CITY PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT, etc., Defendant-Respondent.
James SPEARMAN, Jr., a minor, by his mother and next friend,
Evelyn Spearman, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
Adolph HOSKINS, et al., Defendants-Respondents.
No. 62183.
Supreme Court of Missouri, En Banc.
June 8, 1981.

Mark I. Bronson, Newman & Bronson, St. Louis, for plaintiffs-appellants.

Donald L. James, St. Louis, for University City Public School Dist.

Thomas J. Plunkert, St. Louis, for Hoskins, et al.

DONNELLY, Judge.

On August 10, 1977, plaintiff James Spearman, a minor, filed a personal injury suit against defendant University City Public

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School District (hereinafter "school district"). Plaintiff alleged that on January 6, 1977, while participating in a gym class and performing on a trampoline owned by the school district, he fell and landed on the trampoline's exposed springs.

Plaintiff was granted leave to file an amended petition adding as party defendants physical education instructors Adolph Hoskins and Edward Koschner. The amended petition against the instructors consisted of basically the same allegations as in the original petition against the school district.

On November 21, 1977, the school district filed a motion to dismiss on the ground that the action against it was barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. This motion was sustained by the trial court on May 26, 1978.

On August 18, 1978, and August 23, 1978, respectively, defendants Koschner and Hoskins filed motions to dismiss, contending (1) that plaintiff's petition failed to state a cause of action and (2) the action against the instructors was barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. These motions were sustained, without indication as to which ground, by the trial court on February 7, 1979.

Plaintiff appealed the trial court's rulings to the Court of Appeals, Eastern District. Upon the plaintiff's application following an opinion by the Eastern District affirming the trial court's actions, we granted transfer of the case to this Court pursuant to Rule 83.03 and now decide it as if it were an original appeal. Mo.Const. art. V, § 10.

Plaintiff argues that the trial court erred in sustaining the school district's motion to dismiss, contending that the sovereign immunity doctrine should not bar his action because the school district had liability insurance. This Court, in Jones v. State Highway Commission, 557 S.W.2d 225 (Mo.banc 1977), abrogated the doctrine of sovereign immunity prospectively as to claims arising on or after August 15, 1978 (except for Jones and those certain cases decided the same date as Jones). In this case, plaintiff's alleged injury occurred January 6, 1977. We approve the holding in Strong v. Curators of the University of Missouri, 575 S.W.2d 812, 813 (Mo.App.1978), wherein it is stated:

"Jones is not so conditioned as to make its prospective application inapplicable to those blanketed by the doctrine who incidentally carry insurance. No distinction is made in Jones as to those agencies with or without insurance. The language in Jones is explicit that the doctrine of sovereign immunity is to be effective to August 15, 1978, and there is no provision for lifting its protective veil simply because the agency has insurance."

Nor do we agree with plaintiff's contention that Jones' prospective application violates the equal protection guarantee of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. We agree with the view expressed by the Supreme Court of Illinois in Molitor v. Kaneland Community Unit School District No. 302, 18 Ill.2d 11, 163 N.E.2d 89 (1959), cert. denied, 362 U.S. 968, 80 S.Ct. 955, 4 L.Ed.2d 900 (1960), to-wit:

"It is within our inherent power as the highest court of this State to give a decision prospective or retrospective application without offending constitutional principles. Great Northern Railway Co. v. Sunburst Oil & Refining Co., 287 U.S. 358, 53 S.Ct. 145, 77 L.Ed. 360."

163 N.E.2d at 97. See also Abernathy v. Sisters of St. Mary's, 446 S.W.2d 599, 606 (Mo.banc 1969); Christophel v. Parkway School District, 600 S.W.2d 61 (Mo.App.1980).

The trial court's ruling with respect to the school district's motion to dismiss is affirmed.

Plaintiff next argues that the trial court erred in dismissing his petition against instructors Hoskins and Koschner. As stated earlier, the grounds asserted in these defendants' motion to dismiss were that (1) plaintiff's petition did not state a cause of action against the defendants; and (2) any cause of action against the defendant instructors is barred by the doctrine of sovereign

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immunity. The trial court merely sustained the motions to dismiss without comment as to the ground on which its ruling was based.

The question whether the doctrine of sovereign immunity afforded school districts also extends to teachers has been addressed infrequently in Missouri.

Smith v. Consolidated School District No. 2, 408 S.W.2d 50 (Mo. banc 1966), involved an action by a student against a school district, its superintendent, and an instructor for personal injuries sustained in a wrestling class. In that case, this Court affirmed the dismissal of the action against the instructor for the reason that the averments against the instructor were mere legal conclusions. Id. at 56. However, the Court specifically noted that the following issues were not reached by the decision:

"(1) that (the instructor) was a 'public officer clothed with discretionary powers and at all times engaged wholly in performing a governmental function and thus not liable for acts of negligence'; (2) that (the instructor) is not liable to plaintiff for alleged negligent acts of omission constituting nonfeasance; and (3) that the relationship of loco parentis...

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19 practice notes
  • Rupp v. Bryant, No. 60826
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • July 15, 1982
    ...courts find a teacher is simply not immune from suit for his negligent acts. See, e.g., Spearman v. University City Pub. School Dist., 617 S.W.2d 68 (Mo.1981); Short v. Griffitts, 220 Va. 53, 255 S.E.2d 479 19 Because we rely on Village of El Portal, McCord and Knowles, we do not reach argu......
  • Bolon v. Rolla Public Schools, No. 4:93CV2034 CDP.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Missouri)
    • March 6, 1996
    ...for negligence. Id. at 861 (citing Lehmen v. Wansing, 624 S.W.2d 1 (Mo.1981) (en banc); Spearman v. Univ. City Public Sch. Dist., 617 S.W.2d 68 (Mo.1981) (en banc)). This Court agrees that the Missouri Supreme Court has refused to grant immunity to superintendents and principals for their n......
  • Johnson v. Special Sch. Dist. of St. Louis Cnty., Case No. 4:18CV53JCH
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Missouri)
    • May 10, 2018
    ...See Patterson v. Meramec Valley R-III Sch. Dist., 864 S.W.2d 14, 15 (Mo. Ct. App. 1993); Spearman v. Univ. City Pub. Sch. Dist., 617 S.W.2d 68, 71 (Mo. 1981) (en banc) (as a general rule, a school district is immune from liability in tort). The Court finds, therefore, that Plaintiff's claim......
  • Bartley v. Special School Dist. of St. Louis County, No. 63901
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • April 26, 1983
    ...of sovereign immunity by the public entity. See Lehmen v. Wansing, 624 S.W.2d at 2; Spearman v. University City Public School District, 617 S.W.2d 68, 69 (Mo. banc 1981) (availability and purchase of liability insurance do not enervate sovereign immunity In sum: the law is consistent that p......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
19 cases
  • Rupp v. Bryant, No. 60826
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • July 15, 1982
    ...courts find a teacher is simply not immune from suit for his negligent acts. See, e.g., Spearman v. University City Pub. School Dist., 617 S.W.2d 68 (Mo.1981); Short v. Griffitts, 220 Va. 53, 255 S.E.2d 479 19 Because we rely on Village of El Portal, McCord and Knowles, we do not reach argu......
  • Bolon v. Rolla Public Schools, No. 4:93CV2034 CDP.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Missouri)
    • March 6, 1996
    ...for negligence. Id. at 861 (citing Lehmen v. Wansing, 624 S.W.2d 1 (Mo.1981) (en banc); Spearman v. Univ. City Public Sch. Dist., 617 S.W.2d 68 (Mo.1981) (en banc)). This Court agrees that the Missouri Supreme Court has refused to grant immunity to superintendents and principals for their n......
  • Johnson v. Special Sch. Dist. of St. Louis Cnty., Case No. 4:18CV53JCH
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Missouri)
    • May 10, 2018
    ...See Patterson v. Meramec Valley R-III Sch. Dist., 864 S.W.2d 14, 15 (Mo. Ct. App. 1993); Spearman v. Univ. City Pub. Sch. Dist., 617 S.W.2d 68, 71 (Mo. 1981) (en banc) (as a general rule, a school district is immune from liability in tort). The Court finds, therefore, that Plaintiff's claim......
  • Bartley v. Special School Dist. of St. Louis County, No. 63901
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • April 26, 1983
    ...of sovereign immunity by the public entity. See Lehmen v. Wansing, 624 S.W.2d at 2; Spearman v. University City Public School District, 617 S.W.2d 68, 69 (Mo. banc 1981) (availability and purchase of liability insurance do not enervate sovereign immunity In sum: the law is consistent that p......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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