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N.L. v. Bethel School District

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 2

April 28, 2015

N.L., Appellant
v.
Bethel School District, Respondent

Oral Argument, January 20, 2015

Page 1238

Appeal from Pierce County Superior Court. Docket No: 12-2-12359-0. Judge signing: Honorable Susan K Serko. Judgment or order under review. Date filed: 01/10/2014.

Julie A. Kays and John R. Connelly Jr. (of Connelly Law Offices ), for appellant.

Francis S. Floyd and John A. Safarli (of Floyd Pflueger & Ringer PS ), for respondent.

Authored by Lisa Sutton. Concurring: Rich Melnick, Lisa Worswick.

OPINION

Page 1239

Lisa Sutton, J.

[187 Wn.App. 463] [¶1] NL[1] appeals the superior court's summary judgment dismissal of her negligence claim against Bethel School District (BSD). NL sued BSD after she was sexually assaulted by a registered sex offender BSD student, Nicholas Clark, while the two were off school grounds. NL has asked us to determine whether BSD, which knew of Clark's sex offender status, owed a duty of care to protect NL and, if so, whether as a matter of law NL's sexual assault was within the general field of danger that BSD could have or should have reasonably anticipated. We hold that (1) BSD owed a duty of reasonable care to protect NL and monitor Clark and (2) genuine issues of material fact exist as to whether BSD breached its duty and whether

Page 1240

that breach was a proximate cause of NL's injury. We reverse and remand.

[187 Wn.App. 464] FACTS

I. Clark's Initial Contact with NL

[¶2] In April 2007, NL, age 14, attended 8th grade at Bethel Junior High School. Clark, age 18, attended 12th grade at Bethel High School. Both schools were part of BSD. The track and football fields link the two school campuses together. Clark and NL were members of their respective schools' track teams. Both track teams held practices on the same track field at the same time at the end of the school day during track season.

[¶3] At the end of April, a mutual friend introduced NL to Clark while they were on the track field for team practice. Clark lied to NL about his age, telling her that he was 16 years old. Clark and NL exchanged cell phone numbers and began sending text messages to each other that day.

[¶4] The day after meeting NL, Clark urged her to skip track practice to go to nearby Burger King for lunch with him. Once in the car, Clark told NL he had forgotten something at home and needed to retrieve it. NL went into the house after Clark invited her inside, and once they were inside his bedroom Clark sexually assaulted NL. Clark returned NL to school so she could catch the school bus. NL told a friend that she had had sex with Clark and that information reached the junior high school who notified the ...


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