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Immunity for New Mexico Public School Districts and the 1978 Tort Claims Act

Description: In a 3-year timeframe, nearly 800 student negligence suits were filed, and most involved some claim of personal injury. Despite heightened public attention of negligence lawsuits against school districts and their employees, an empirical study of court decisions revealed that the volume of litigation against school districts remained steady from 1990 to 2005, the majority of cases were ruled in favor of the school district employees, and government and official immunity were most often the basis for these rulings. Researchers have concluded that immunity laws are strong in the United States, although they vary by state in their application. However, a primary recommendation was that, because of the misconception of a lack of immunity for public school employees, a comprehensive study on governmental and official immunity is needed. This dissertation employed legal research, analysis, and methodology to engage in a comprehensive investigation of teacher immunity in the four southern states of Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and New Mexico. Of central concern to this dissertation was the Tort Claims Act of 1978 from the State of New Mexico. The Tort Claims Act is the vehicle by which immunity is granted to public school employees. Court findings over the last 35 years point to three primary domains under which cases pertaining to immunity fall: negligence (62.5%), evaluation and supervision (16.7%), and student discipline (8.3%). Immunity appears strong across all three domains; however, only future studies on cases by state will determine whether states in the southwest United States are the norm or an anomaly.
Date: August 2014
Creator: Herauf, Todd J.