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Georgia Supreme Court Hears School Liability Case – Non Custodial Parent Picked Up Child At School

By Stephanie F. Brown, Attorney and David Wolf, Attorney
Published by Child Injury Lawyer Network

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In a case before the Georgia Supreme Court, the issue of a public school’s liability for releasing a student to the non-custodial parent who did not have permission of the custodial parent to pick up the child is under consideration. The school receptionist received a fake FAX and telephone call allegedly from the custodial parent granting permission to the non-custodial parent to pick up his six year old daughter. The receptionist looked for the child’s information card to see who was authorized to pick up the child but could not locate the card. The school’s computer database did not have any warning about the father.

The custodial parent then sued the school receptionist for releasing the child to the father. The trial court granted summary judgment to the receptionist on the grounds that she was a public employee who was immune from suit for performing discretionary acts—acts that require an employee to exercise personal judgment. A public employee can, however, be sued for negligently performing a ministerial duty—a specific, absolute duty that does not require the exercise of judgment.

On appeal to the Georgia Court of Appeals, the grant of summary judgment was reversed because the Court found that the receptionist’s act of releasing the child was a ministerial duty and she had no discretion over how to perform the act. The issue under consideration by the Georgia Supreme Court is whether the school employee was performing a ministerial duty or was performing a discretionary act.