Uhr v. East Greenbush Central School District (N.Y. 1999)

Procedural History: Supreme Court granted motion for summary judgment to defendant, holding that Education Law § 905(1) does not create a private right of action and that plaintiffs failed to otherwise state a claim for common-law negligence. Court of Appeals affirmed that plaintiffs failed as a matter of law to stae a claim for common-law negligence.

Facts: The school district failed to test the infant plaintiff annually for scoliosis. The plaintiff needed surgery that could have been avoided if the condition were discovered earlier.

Issue: Does Education Law § 905(1) create a duty that would otherwise not exist?

Rules:

Education Law § 905(1):

“Medical inspectors or principles and teachers in charge of school sin this state shall… examine all… pupils between 8 and 16 years of age for scoliosis, at least once in each school year.”

Education Law § 905(2):

“Notwithstanding any other provisions of any general, special or local law, the school authorities charged with the duty of making such tests or examinations of pupils for the presence of scoliosis pursuant to this section shall not suffer any liability to any person as a result of making such test or examination…”

“When a statute itself expressly authorizes a private right of action (or an express cause of action)… there is no need for further analysis.” [162]

Sheehy v. Big Flats Community Day:

In making the determination [of whether a statute intended an implied private right of action]:

  1. Whether the plaintiff is one of the class for whose particular benefit the statute was enacted,
  2. Whether recognition of a private right of action would promote the legislative purpose; and
  3. Whether creation of such a right would be consistent with the legislative scheme.

Application: Because the legislative scheme expressly provided immunity of liability to schools for misfeasance, and there was evidence that legislature intended to provide immunity of liability to schools for nonfeasance, there can be no private right of action in this case. In addition, the legislature stated that the Commissioner of Education would enforce the law and so it was unnecessary to allow for private actions to promote the legislative purpose.

Conclusion: The East Greenbush Central School District did not have a duty to provide scoliosis screenings under Education Law § 905(1) because the legislative scheme promoted immunity for liability of school districts failing to comply.

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