CIVIL RIGHTS-IMMUNITY-QUALIFIED IMMUNITY-CLEARLY ESTABLISHED RIGHT-SCHOOL SWIMMING ASPHYXIATION

November 23rd, 2015 by Rieders Travis in Civil Rights

This action stems from the death of a 15-year-old from a rare form of asphyxiation shortly after participation in a mandatory swimming class run by his physical education teacher.  The estate sued the school district, claiming a violation of civil rights.  The school district moved for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity, which the district court denied.  The conduct of the teacher and the school did not violate a clearly established constitutional right, and hence summary judgment should have been granted.  To equate intentional infliction of painful corporal punishment or the sexual molestation of a student, with a student-athlete’s unfortunate accident during wrestling practice or a rare instance of delay drowning after swim class is a bridge too far.  The case law does not inform a reasonable gym teacher that the failure to assess a student who briefly goes underwater for the possibility of dry drowning violated the student’s constitutional right to bodily integrity free from unwarranted intrusions by the state.  Spady v. Bethlehem Area School District, 800 F.3d 633 (3rd Cir. 2015).

Attorney Cliff Rieders

Attorney Cliff RiedersCliff Rieders is a Nationally Board Certified Trial Lawyer practicing personal injury law. A large part of his practice involves multi-district litigation, including cases related to pharmaceuticals, vitamin supplements and medical devices. He is admitted in several state and federal courts, as well as the Supreme Court of the United States. Rieders is the past regional president of the Federal Bar Association and is a life member of the distinguished American Law Institute, which promulgates proposed rules adopted by many state courts. He is a past president of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, formerly Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association. As a founder of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, he served on the Board for 15 years.

Not only has Rieders held many highly esteemed, leadership positions, he authored legislation related to the Patient Safety Authority and the Mcare Act, which governs medical and hospital liability actions in Pennsylvania. He authored texts upon which both practitioners and judges rely, including Pennsylvania Malpractice Laws and Forms, and Financial Responsibility Law Issues in Pennsylvania, the latter governing auto and truck collisions in Pennsylvania. In addition, he wrote several books on the practice of law in Pennsylvania regarding wrongful death and survivor actions, insurance bad faith, legal malpractice claims and worker rights, among others. Rieders also serves as a resource to practitioners as a regular speaker for Celesq, an arm of the world’s largest legal publisher, Thomson Reuters West Publishing.

As recognition of his wide range of contribution to his profession and of his dedication to protecting the rights of his clients, he received numerous awards, among them the George F. Douglas Amicus Curiae Award, the Milton D. Rosenberg Award, the B’nai B’rith Justice Award, and awards of recognition from the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers. [ Attorney Bio ]

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