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South Carolina School District Facing Personal Injury Suit In Alcohol Poisoning Case Of 12-Year Old Student

A 7th-grade girl took the school bus to Sneed Middle School as normal in September 2016. In the afternoon, her parents were notified of a medical emergency involving her after she returned on the bus. The parents have filed a negligence suit against the Florence County Schools and the South Carolina Educational Department after the 12-year-old was diagnosed as having alcohol poisoning. The student, whose identity will remain anonymous, was found unresponsive after exiting the school bus near her home. She was taken to the hospital and her blood alcohol level measured .271, roughly three times over the limit in DUI cases standards. The suit explains that she also experienced respiratory failure stemming from a lack of oxygen and that the school and its employees failed to properly supervise and care for the girl.

After contacting the school the parents were able to review video surveillance footage showing the student riding the bus slumped over with her head down. The driver stopped the bus abruptly and reminded her that they had reached her bus stop. The girl slowly gathered her belongings and tripped while moving toward the exit. The driver asked the girl if something was wrong as the girl exited the bus and followed her off of the bus to check on her but was not able to confirm a problem as the student proceeded down the road before later collapsing. The lawsuit cites that those who reviewed the video footage found it “disturbing”.

The student remained at the hospital for three days and during her evaluation, she appeared to be suffering from depression. During a mental health assessment, the girl alleged that she had been forced into sexual acts while in the 4th grade in a school bathroom. The suit claims that the school district and state education department were grossly negligent in their care and supervisory duties. Further, the suit explains that the defendants failed in training employees in recognizing dangerous medical situations. Some of the damages the parents seek are related to personal injury, medical expenses, anguish, suffering, and anxiety.

Some of the key aspects of South Carolina’s personal injury case laws that may apply in this case include:

  • A plaintiff may be entitled to recovery only when their level of negligence is less than that of the defendant, in accordance with their comparative negligence doctrine
  • Defendant(s) determined to have been less than 50% at fault, are civilly liable for the percentage of the damages that the jury determines
  • There are no limits or caps on damage awards in most cases; however, governmental entities are only liable for a maximum of $300,000 per person or $600,000 per incident.
    • Only actual damages are recoverable against the government, not exemplary or punitive damages.
  • Personal injury cases are subject to a three-year statute of limitations

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 

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