To The Point Blog

Community School Management Companies and Their Employees are not entitled to statutory immunity.

Mar 10, 2014

A recent court decision will significantly impact many community schools and the management companies that operate community schools.  In Cunningham v. Star Academy of Toledo, 6th Dist. No.L-12-1272, the 6th District held that management companies and their employees are not entitled to statutory immunity.  This differentiates management companies from community schools, which are entitled to immunity, and removes a liability “shield” from community school management companies and their employees. 

The Cunningham case involved a community school, which was operated by a for-profit management company.  One of the school’s students was injured when a TV cart fell on him.  The student’s mother brought a suit against the community school’s management company and the principal. Importantly, the principal was not employed by the school, but by the management company.

The management company and the principal sought summary judgment (a legal maneuver to dismiss claims against them) by asserting that they were entitled to political subdivision immunity under the R.C. Chapter 2744.  The trial court denied these motions.  On appeal, the 6th District affirmed the trial court by asserting that management companies and the employees of management companies are not political subdivisions and are not entitled to political subdivision immunity. 

The 6th District’s opinion centered on who is and is not a political subdivision under R.C. Chapter 2744.  The distinction is important because only political subdivisions are entitled to immunity.  The court determined whether three different entities are political subdivisions: community schools, management companies, and employees of management companies. 

First, the Court held that community schools are political subdivisions and are entitled to immunity.  The Court’s opinion was supported by the Revised Code, which classifies community schools as political subdivisions. 

Second, the Court held that community school management companies are not political subdivisions and are not entitled to immunity.  The Court’s decision was based on the definition of a public subdivision, which the Court determined did not include (and was not meant to include) private, for-profit corporations that contracted with a political subdivision.  As the management company was a private, for-profit corporation that performed services for a community school, it could not be a political subdivision.  This meant that it was not entitled to immunity under R.C. Chapter 2744. 

Finally, the court held that the management company’s employee was also not part of a political subdivision.  As the employee of an entity that was not a political subdivision, the employee was not entitled to statutory immunity.  This is significantly different from a principal employed by a community school, who would be entitled (generally) to immunity. 

The court’s conclusion is significant.  A community school management company and the management company’s employees are not entitled to the same tort liability shields as community schools and community school employees.  

The decision could still be appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, but represents a negative ruling for community school management companies.  If you have any questions about the case please contact your Day Ketterer Education Law Attorney

The content of this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice for any purpose. This blog is not intended to present an exhaustive summary of all applicable laws, or to take the place of legal advice.  If you have any questions regarding the law, please contact us for assistance.